Photos by Marcel Sigg
National women’s hockey coach Sheldon Rostron has hailed the Premier Hockey League as an important part of the bigger picture of the country’s hockey set-up and said the standard of this year’s tournament was a big step up from 2016.
Speaking as the curtain came down on the 2017 event, Rostron was also enthusiastic about the growth opportunities for such a tournament.
The unheralded Orange River Rafters were crowned women’s champions and the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen lifted the men’s trophy for a second consecutive year as the tournament came to an end on Tuesday evening.
“From last year’s PHL, I think we’ve seen a big improvement in the quality of hockey this year. I think it’s been part of our processes to make sure, from high performance, that we’ve really looked at the top players that are here, how those teams get put together,” said Rostron.
“We also tried to integrate all the under-21s that are in the system as well to make sure that they were all here to perform and we were very happy with the quality in general,” added the coach.
“Within Africa this is definitely one of the strongest leagues and we need to look at how we grow ourselves from this – potentially latching on to international players that could maybe come and add value in a process like this, and hopefully being able to professionalise in the long-term. I think that way we could really add a lot of value to the national team.”
With two major tournaments on the horizon for the national sides, the PHL provided selectors with one last chance to have a look at potential team members – with Rostron hinting there may even be a few surprises when his Commonwealth Games team is announced in January.
“In terms of players that we’ve seen, there’ve certainly been one or two that we’ve been happy to have a look at. I definitely think there are some players here that have put up their hands quite nicely,” he added.
Meanwhile, CEO of SA Hockey Marissa Langeni was also full of praise for the tournament. “I’m absolutely pleased with how the tournament has gone. I think there’s been some really exciting hockey for fans out there and I think the Premier Hockey League is obviously an event that everybody has been looking forward to.
“There were a few challenges with the rain but then again, over 8255 hockey fans have come through the gates to enjoy the spectacular display of hockey over the last three weekends – I think that it’s been a phenomenal event all round.”
Looking ahead to next year’s tournament, which will likely be played in the winter months, Langeni added: “We’re now looking forward to PHL 2018 and to build on the successes achieved this year which, additional to the on field game, include educational workshops presented by the South African Institute for Drug Free Sport as well as Milk SA from a nutritional perspective.
“Just in terms of the talent pool that’s out there, a lot of players are now asking how they can get involved in the PHL as they are realising that this is where they want to play. It is important for us as a national association to continue providing opportunities of access to the sport. The PHL provides us with a platform to create greater access for high performance athletes outside of our traditional inter-provincial tournaments.
“Our thanks go out to all our sponsors – SRSA, SuperSport, CTM, Crossroads, MilkSA, Tsogo, Grays, Greenfields, Old Mutual iWYZE and Private Property – for giving the players that opportunity and being a part of the hockey revolution in South Africa.”
Tournament award winners:
Player of the tournament: Miguel da Graca (Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen)
Top goal-scorer: Courtney Halle (Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators)
Best goalkeeper: Gowan Jones (ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons)
Best junior player: Tyson Dlungwana (Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators)
Player of the tournament: Kristen Paton (Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies)
Top goal-scorer: Sulette Damons (Orange River Rafters) and Tiffany Jones (Private Property St Lucia Lakers)
Best goalkeeper: Nicole La Fleur (Wineland Wings)
Best junior player: Ongi Mali (Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies)