THEY may have lost the battle this time, but as far as the Selangor Hockey Association (SHA) is concerned, their campaign has just begun.
Selangor took a step out of its comfort zone this year, making its debut in the 2018 Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) Division One which ended last week.
In the six matches that they played, they won one, drew one and lost four to finish fifth out of seven teams in their group.
They opened their campaign with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Olak despite taking a two-goal lead before bouncing back to edge RMAF-Rajawali 2-1.
Selangor then lost the remainder of its matches against Kedah 3-1, BJSS 5-3, UITM-KPT 3-0 and losing narrowly to Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh (MBI) 4-3.
Although the team showed marked improvement on the pitch after each game, the visiting MBI side had the edge in their last fixture at the MBPJ Hockey Stadium.
“Our forwards played well and were on par with their opponents and matched their fast-paced game, but MBI were able to convert two goals on the counter attack and despite our best efforts during the last two quarters, we could not find the net,” said team manager A. Francis.
“We tried our level best but today was not our day. Still, overall I am satisfied with the game they played despite not qualifying for the knockout stage.
“Now that we know where we stand, we have our work cut out for us for next season and will start preparations early,” Francis added.
Aside from the Razak Cup, MHL’s Division One is the highest level SHA has fielded a team so far.
SHA president S. Ganesh said they would return next season in a bid to build the state’s flagship hockey team.
“This is just the start. Our aim was to start from scratch and by the second or third year reach a certain level and hopefully be good enough to contend for the title and qualify for the Premier League.
“We may have stumbled in our inaugural season but we have certainly gained valuable experience and this will give us something to work on between now and next season.
“It is not so much about winning or losing. Our duty is to develop the players and give them the right exposure,” Ganesh noted.
Dipping their feet in the MHL has also given them the opportunity to build the management’s experience in the division while investing in their players.
“Looking at most of the teams in Division One who play together throughout the year like BJSS and UITM-KPT, I think we were not far off the mark in terms of standard of play. So we hope to retain most of the players for our future squad which is in line with our vision to build a strong state squad,” Ganesh said.
“We learnt a lot this opening season, we can now see where our weaknesses lie.”
Selangor strategically fielded a number of young players in the Division One squad to serve as a platform which will give the youngsters exposure and match experience in the run-up to this year’s Sukma games in Perak come September.
Ganesh also believes having a good state team can give the grassroots something to look forward to.
“We put a lot of effort in development but we cannot forget about the senior team who can motivate the younger ones,” he added.