Thursday, 9 January 2014 | MYT 6:21 PM
MJHL provides chance to unearth fresh talents
A file picture of the SSTMI-Thunderbolt team after they were crowned champions of the MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysia Junior Hockey League (MJHL) last season.
KUALA LUMPUR: The MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysia Junior Hockey League (MJHL), which begins on Friday, will kick start the domestic hockey season for this year and provide valuable insight into the talents available for the new national junior squad.
The Project 2013 team have now progressed to the next level after finishing fourth in the Junior World Cup last month.
Next up is the Project 2016 squad – and potential candidates will be selected from the MJHL.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) have formed an ad hoc Project 2017 team but the players will be absorbed into the 2016 squad.
The players in the 1MAS programme will also be scrutinised when they play in the MJHL.
There is no doubt that the talent is there, although what remains to be seen is how many from the MJHL have what it takes to make the training squad.
A record number of 30 teams have entered for this year’s competition and it is evident that the MJHL remains relevant for the development of the game.
With each team registering at least 20 players, there will 600 players in action each week.
As this is also the Malaysia Games (Sukma) year, almost all the states have entered a team in the MJHL, except for Sabah and Sarawak.
The MJHL has, over the years, grown with the increasing number of sports schools and hockey centres of excellence joining in the fray. It also provides teams the chance to gauge their standards and capabilities.
SSTMI-Thunderbolt are the team to beat in Division One this year as they seek to defend their league and overall titles.
There are seven teams in this division. The other teams are Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), Malacca High School, Anderson-Perak SEDC, SSTMI Juniors and KLSS Juniors.
UniKL and MBPJ are the only other teams in Division One to have won the league title.
Previous double champions like Bukit Jalil SS and Olak are now in Division Two – and hoping to get back among the elites.
There is a good chance the two teams can make it back to the top as the MHC have decided to have 10 teams in Division One next year.
That means four teams from Division Two will gain promotion instead of the usual two.
As such, only four Division One teams will now make the cut for the knockout stage while the other four teams will come from Division Two.
Overall, there will not be much excitement in Division One as the teams will only play six matches each.
SSTMI coach Wan Mohamed Roslan pointed out that “this means there will be no room for mistakes right from the start”.
“You need to be on your toes from the first game. Even a draw at any stage will be bad for your title hopes. So, we plan to take it one match at a time and ensure we collect maximum points each time. There is no room for mistakes ... there’s no second chance,” he said.
“We have a strong squad but there are at least two or three teams with an equal chance of winning the title. I’m sure it will be a close fight this year.”
The Division One action will start with the battle between the two sports schools – SSTMI and SSTMI Juniors – in Taman Daya, Johor Baru.
Perak’s Anderson are the only Division One team to play two matches this weekend. They take on Malacca High School away on Friday and face MBPJ here on Saturday.
Thus, their title chances will hinge greatly on the outcome of their matches in the first weekend.
With the chance of getting selected to the National Juniors squad, the players will need no extra motivation to prove their worth.