The new Hong Kong Hockey Association Premier Division field hockey season got underway last weekend with the Women’s and Men’s 9-a-side knockout (Men’s Challenge). Underdogs SSSC-A and Shaheen-A played-off in the Men’s Final, while HKFC-A continued their championship form to win the Women’s Final.
Teams were divided into two pools for round robin matches for the 9-a-side tournaments. Games went for just 12 minutes in duration followed by Semi-finals. Only the Final comprised two halves of 12 minutes each.
Having all of the teams at the same venues—HKFC for women and Kings Park for men—in these tournaments, produced enthusiastic support.
Meanwhile, last weekend’s tournaments provided valuable preparation and insight into the HKHA Premier Division 11-a-side regular season proper that commences this coming weekend.
The only change to the men’s teams in the Premier Division from last season is the elevation of Punjab-A, who come up to join the division, making a total of 10 teams. This will allow five men’s matches to take place each fixture weekend.
For the women’s teams, Club de Recreio and a new Hong Kong select team, WS Bauhinia, will join the league to make a total of eight teams. WS Bauhinia and WS Orchid (the Hong Kong under-18 team) will play all of their matches mid-week and only one or two fixtures will take place on Saturdays featuring the other teams.
With the increased number of teams in the Women’s and Men’s Premier Division they will play two rounds of matches (home-and-away) during the season – making a total of 14 matches in the season for each women’s team and 18 matches for the men’s teams.
Six teams took part in the competition on Saturday Sept. 15: HKFC-A & B, KCC-A, Valley-A, Shaheen-A and Recreio-A. It was an afternoon of few goals as all of the round robin matches ended in a nil-all draw, except for HKFC-A, beating Recreio-A by one goal to nil and KCC-A winning their match against HKFC-B by the same margin.
In the Semi-finals HKFC-A overcame Valley-A by three goals to two (on penalties) and KCC-A won against Shaheen-A by one goal to nil, setting up a Final clash between the top two teams from last season’s league.
As one might expect, the Final was a close fought contest that ended in a zero score tie requiring penalties to separate the teams. Even on penalties, it went to 10 to nine before HKFC-A, the top dog from last year, emerged the winners.
Although Valley were knocked out by Hong Kong Football Club-A on penalties in the Semi-final, they always looked threatening. Valley had four new players in the team, including assistant player-coach Kelsey Dunn who has recently arrived from New Zealand. Kelsey, who has been in a New Zealand national squad, showed great awareness and control – strong in defence and a good distributor of the ball. She also showed her goal scoring skills in the penalty shootout. She’s a new player to watch this year.
All-in-all, it was a pleasant day of hockey and a good warm-up for the players.
Men’s 9-a-Side Challenge
In the men’s competition on Sunday Sept. 16 the draw was a bit uneven, with a strong A Pool and weaker B Pool.
After the round robin stage Khalsa-A and Pak-A emerged, the top two teams for Pool A and SSSC-A and Shaheen were the top two in Pool B.
Semi-final matches between Khalsa-A and SSSC-A, and Pak-A and Shaheen both went to penalty shoot outs, with the underdogs SSSC-A and Shaheen-A coming out on top.
In the bronze medal match, Khalsa-A won a fast moving, entertaining match three goals to one against Pak-A.
In the Final, SSSC-A won the title by defeating Shaheen-A on penalties.
It was a very good start to the season with Khalsa still showing dominance, particularly with accurate long passes, speed on the ball and devastating accuracy in taking penalty corners.
The most entertaining matches of the day were Khalsa-A against Pak-A, who showed a high level of skill and capability. Some teams were short of players – Valley-A was without a regular Goalkeeper and elected to play with nine field players.
Several of the teams indicated they are expecting to further strengthen their squads in the next few weeks. Valley has a new player-coach coming from the Antipodes; Arif Ali has returned from Europe to rejoin his brothers Asghar, Akbar and Asif at Shaheen; and SSSC are awaiting another two top-class players from India to join them. So it all adds up to an exciting season.
Matches this week
In the women’s matches, HKFC-A against KCC-A is a big league opener and it will also be interesting to see how Recreio-A get on against HKFC-B. For the men, Punja-A against HKFC-A at Kings Park and Valley-A against Pak-A are highlight matches.