With three pieces of silverware up for grab – the Premier Hockey League, the Tan Sri P. Alagendra Cup knockout tournament and the TNB Cup, the 2016 edition of the TNB-Malaysian Hockey League will keep fans at the edge of their seats.
The much anticipated Premier League gets underway on Friday with all eyes firmly fixed on the Charity Shield clash between double champions Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) and Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) at the Batu Buruk Hockey Stadium in Kuala Terengganu.
Four other teams make up the Premier League – Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Sapura Hockey Club, Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and Maybank.
Buoyed by the return of Mohd Sharun Nabil from injury, Terengganu Hockey Team will remain the team to beat on the back of Terengganu’s Razak Cup win in May. The midfielder, who has been out for nine months with a left knee injury, is back and wants to return to winning ways as team captain.
“As captain, I want a victory, even more so as I picked my injury in last year’s final against KLHC. They are not an easy team to beat and we must be wary of their foreign players,” said Sharun.
Confirming that he has ‘fully recovered’, Sharun believes that his defenders will have to be extra vigilant against KLHC, as they have experienced South Korean drag-flick specialist Hyunwoo Nam in their side.
“Defensively we all need to work together. We can’t give away too many penalty corners, because we all know he (Hyunwoo) can put them away,” he added.
Last year’s runners-up KLHC are hoping to hit the ground running but Coach Muhd Harun Al-Rahid Samri knows it will not be an easy task against an established opponent.
“I finally got my full squad yesterday after our three foreign players from Pakistan arrived. Ali Shan and Muhd Umar Bhutta played for us last year while Khan Abdul Haseem is a newcomer. So with two days to prepare before we begin competing may not be enough against THT who are among the stronger sides in the tournament. They have been together for two years and they have very good players in their squad,” said Harun.
Besides the three Pakistanis and Korean, KLHC have also secured the services of Jelte van Gennip from Holland and Pedro Lopez Alonso of Spain.
Harun, who has targeted one trophy this season, promises his side will give their all in every match.
“For us, it’s all about playing as a team. All my players must support each other on the pitch, the forwards must come down to defend and the defenders must move up in support of the attack.
“The competition has gotten tougher this season, so we have to work extra hard and give our best in every game,” said Harun, adding that Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib will captain the side.
In other Premier matches on Friday, Sapura faces UniKL at the Tun Razak Hockey Stadium while TNB takes on Maybank at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association Stadium.
Sapura, who finished third last season, are looking to better their performance.
Coach Yahya Omar feels that he has a balanced squad, one that can shine if they stick to the game plan. They have also secured the services of Australian forward Oscar William Wookey, New Zealand midfielder Phillip Ross Burrows and India’s defender Gurbaj Singh apart from having six national players in their squad.
“Our preparation coming into this tournament has gone well and I do not have injury problems at this point. I am happy with our foreign players and we have a balanced team in all departments.
“So if they follow the match instructions given to them and work together, then we will definitely get some positive results. If we win a trophy it will be a good, but our immediate goal would be to better last year’s results,” said Yahya.
For UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj Anthonisami, this season will once again be about giving his young squad the opportunity to gain more experience.
“We have a very young squad. Eight of our boys are SUKMA players while three of our foreign players are Under-20. So, we need to mould them and hope they learn as they progress. We are here to help develop and get used to some high level competition.
“Against Sapura, we are hoping to make things tough for them and give a good account of ourselves as a team. If we do this and get a result it will boost our confidence in coming matches. I want the boys to show tactical discipline and to prove their worth,” added Arul.
UniKL have Irishmen Daragh James Walsh (midfielder), Robert Luke Madeley (defender) and James Ruairi Carr (goalkeeper), Germany’s Patrick Neil Schultz (defender), Australian striker Adrian Coster and Pakistan midfielder Muhd Taseeq Muhammad Arshad in their stable.
With so much to play for and the talent on show, fans will be able to catch 29 of the 49 matches involving the Premier Division teams live on Astro Arena from Friday onwards.
Fixtures – Premier League (Friday, 19 August, 2016): THT v KLHC (Batu Buruk Hockey Stadium, 6.0pm); Sapura HC v UniKL (Stadium Tun Abdul Razak, 6.0pm); TNB v Maybank (KLHA Stadium, 6.0pm).