By Martin Yee
KUCHING, Feb 8: Sarawak will only send its women’s team for the hockey event this coming Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Johor scheduled on July 11-19.
The men’s hockey team will not be competing in Sukma for the first time, as the Sarawak Hockey Association is banking its hope on the girls to do well in the 20th edition of the Malaysia Games.
“The Sarawak women’s hockey squad, which will be the only team going to compete in the coming Sukma, will be strengthened by 10 players that played in the last Sukma.
“In a plan mapped out by coach S Sri Sakrunathan, the Sarawak girls team will train longer in Peninsular Malaysia, where they can get exposure of playing in a different environment and exposed to higher playing standard of teams like Penang and Johor,” the association said.
It added that the exposure was a problem that hampered the state’s past Sukma hockey teams, as they failed to pass the semifinal stage in previous editions.
As a first step to add depth and experience to the team, Sakrunathan has recalled Bintulu-born Claudia Chimdun Jiry, who is studying in the Sabah Sports School to the squad.
He also have two experienced players who had played in the national junior league to strengthen the team in Elizabeth Epui Martin, who is older and more mature at 18.
“Claudia, having played in the state Under 14 and Under 16, is a matured player for her age but had not trained with the senior team. She is a player for the future.
“As she is the only Sarawak girl to study in the national school in Sabah, she has the advantage of training everyday and under a proper coach,” Sakrunathan said.
He added that Claudia’s main advantage was that she had played in the junior league with Selangor MSN team. The club-based tournament is used as a base by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation to select players for the national team.
Elizabeth meanwhile, has years of experience playing for Mutiara Impian team from Penang in the junior league. She is regarded as a more established player, as she had played for the Asian qualifier.
“Elizabeth, a Kayan, has chalked up many miles having played in the Junior League and her experience is likely to help the Sarawak team. She was eyed by PDRM (police) and supposed to play for them but turned it down due to health reasons.”
The squad is anchored by midfielder cum striker Suhaila Sata, who had won several honours, for her goal scoring exploits in various tournaments.
Suhaila had shone in the recent friendly match against the Australian Under 21 team at the Sarawak Hockey Stadium in Padungan, where she scored in the 2-1 defeat to the visitors.
“Suhaila is the mainstay of the Sarawak team as she is prolific and had the added experience of playing in a few Sukmas,” Sakrunathan said.
He believed that the team can reached their target of at least a semifinal berth if all plans go into place, judging from the outing against the much fancied and better prepared Australian team, despite Sarawak having just four days of training.
He added that this proved the team has potential, but need some final tuning, to get their competitive edge. — DayakDaily