Thursday (30 March, 2017): Four Thunderbolt teams will go up against an ‘army of distractors’ when the Malaysian Junior Hockey League 2017 season gets underway tomorrow.
Leading the 10-team Division One League challenge is defending champion Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI), Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), Pahang Sports School and Ipoh-based SMK Anderson – all products of Tenaga Nasional Berhad Thunderbolts Development Programme. Under the programme, TNB provide teams with technical assistance through their former national players.
Twenty teams will compete in the Boys Division Two which comprises of three groups whilst 11 teams, including debutants SMK Convent Bukit Nanas Hockey Club (CBN), will vie for the Girls League and overall titles.
SSTMI have reigned supreme for the last six years but saw their hopes turned into ashes when BJSS Thunderbolts wrested the overall Boys MJHL title after a six-year wait following a 4-3 victory in the 2017 final to end the Bandar Penawar-based sports school’s dominance.
However, hot on the heels of the four Thunderbolt Programme teams in the seven-week long MJHL will be Universiti Kuala Lumpur Young Guns; Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya Tiger, Olak Nurinsafi, SMK Dato Bentara Luar (Johor Juniors), Politeknik Malaysia-KPT and BJSS Juniors.
As for UniKL Young Guns, who emerged champions in 2011, qualifying for the semi-finals stage is the initial target. Having started training since early March, UniKL Young Guns are optimistic they can make the top four after a dismal outing last year in the quarterfinals stage.
UniKL has appointed senior team coach A. Arul Selvaraj to take charge of the Young Guns and Arul, who has been training the boys twice a day, is happy with the commitment shown by the players in training and friendly matches.
“We had trials and selected the players in late January,” said Arul. “There are many talented youngsters and they need exposure before migrating into the MHL. I believe we have the talent to mount a serious challenge but want to remain realistic with the target as only five players from last year’s squad have been retained”.
“So we largely have an inexperienced squad but the willingness of the players to learn and adapt to training is a delight for any coach,” he added.
The two friendly matches UniKL Young Guns played against Bukit Jalil Sports School and Pahang Sports School saw the city boys losing 5-0 respectively but Arul is not overly concerned with the result.
“It was their first matches together as a team and it will take time for them to get used to the playing styles we want them to adapt to,” he said.
The five players who played last year are Iskandar Farez Shah Zainal Abidin, Mohd Aiman Che Musa, Mohd Taufik Kamjai, goalkeeper Mohd Suhayl Ainon Azmi and Mohd Ishraf Irsyad Alias.
Convent Bukit Nanas Hockey Club’s participation in the MJHL received the blessings of the school’s Parent- Teachers Association (PIBG) and the players are all too excited to go into a ‘battle of guts’ against the big guns.
The team has been training the last three months under former international James Murthy at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium and MBPJ Stadium.
Drawn in Group A alongside defending champions SSTMI Thunderbolt, CBN opens its campaign against MSSPP-PSHA-USM Juniors at the Universiti Sains Malaysia hockey pitch tomorrow.
SSTMI lifted the inaugural Women’s Junior Hockey League title last year with a 2-1 win over Kuala Lumpur Wipers in the final.
“We are participating merely for the exposure and experience. These senior players are a role model to our junior development teams. There is more to gain in participating in MJHL,” said CBN team manager, Zaiton Othman.
Boys Division 1: BJSS Thunderbolt, SSTMI Thunderbolts, Anderson Thunderbolt, Pahang Sports School Thunderbolt, UniKL Young Guns, MBPJ Tiger, Olak Nurinsafi, SMK Dato Bentara Luar (Johor Juniors), Politeknik Malaysia-KPT and BJSS Juniors.
Division 2A: MSS Kedah, MISC-UFL Penang, MSSPP-PHA USM, MSSPP-PHA USM Juniors, Perlis Young Lions, MSSP-PHP-KP Stingers.
Division 2B: Terengganu Junior Team, MSSWPKL, MISC UFL, MCKK, Anderson PHA, MBFM Felda Juniors, Sabah Sports School Malaysia Resilient.
Division 2C: Malacca High School Young Hurricanes, SSTMI Juniors, Johor Bahru District HA, SMK Dato Mohd Taha, SMK Tunku Besar Tampin, MBMB Warriors, SMK Dato Bentara Luar.
Girls Division – Group A: Wipers-KLSS, SSTMI, MSSPP-PSHA-USM Juniors, Convent Bukit Nanas Hockey Club, Sabah Sports School Malaysia, MSN Kedah.
Group B: MSSPP-PSHA –USM, PKS-Uniten-KPT, Johor Juniors, MSN-MSSPK SMK Gunong Rapat.
Fixtures – Friday (31 March) Division 1: UniKL Young Guns v BJSS Juniors (KLHA Stadium, 5pm).
Division 2A: Stingers v MSS Kedah (Kuala Perlis, 5pm); MISC UFL Penang v MSSPP-PHA-USM (Sg Petani, 5pm); MSSPP PHA-USM Juniors v MSNSSN Young Lions (USM, 5pm).
Division 2C: Johor Bahru District HA v SMK Dato Mohd Taha (Taman Daya, 5pm).
Girls Group A: SMK Dato Lela Pahlawan v Sabah Sports School Malaysia (SMK Dato Lela Pahlawan, 5pm); MSSPP USM Juniors v SMK Convent Bukit Nanas HC (USM, 4pm).