Busy start to winter hockey season for Riverside

2014-06-12 00:00

THIS month sees another winter hockey season get under way and KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest hockey club, Riverside, are making it count with some important events on their calendar.

It starts on June 16, with the club hosting their mini hockey festival with players coming from around the province to enjoy the game. This year’s edition sees more than 70 teams with players competing at U9, U11 and U13 levels.

Festival organiser Natalie Cryer said, “This is the ideal platform for enthusiastic young players to prove their worth on the pitch, while the festival provides a day out for everyone. This festival is part of our mandate to promote sport, especially hockey, as a healthy and social lifestyle.”

Also at the festival, the Kit for kwaMashu Kids programme is being launched. Sponsored by Varsity College, the initiative asks everyone attending the festival, whether Riverside members or visitors, to bring their old hockey kit for donation to the INK (Inanda, Ntuzuma and kwaMashu) Hockey Club.

Riverside chairperson Wayne Phillips, observing that hockey was growing in these areas, encouraged people to support the initiative. “We have had a strong relationship with INK since 2007, and one of the major ways we support them is through the donation of hockey and other sports equipment,” he said.

The project has begun to bear fruit with the INK’s U12 boys’ team selected across all sporting codes to participate at the World Junior Games in Austria, departing on June 17. All kit brought for the project, from shoes and sticks to shin pads, is used by the club’s facilitator, Nathi Ngubane, to recruit another child and offer a youngster a chance in life through playing hockey.

Another Varsity College initiative is the Reach programme and this is launched soon after the festival. This offers top draw training and league match opportunities to Riverside’s squad of more than 120 players aged 12 to 15. A squad will be selected on June 23 to play a series of matches, culminating on August 10. “We have one coach to every eight players and such an environment allows these youngsters to take their game to the next level,” said Derek Field, Riverside’s director of coaching.

The club’s biggest event is the Riverside Elite Club Challenge from June 27 to June 29. This is the country’s only national inter-club tournament and will be graced by current national players busy playing at the World Cup in Holland. Riverside are the defending champions, and last year’s runner up Wanderers, plus Western Province and Kearsney, are playing.

“All these teams have international players and are league champions in their own right. The standard of hockey on show is extremely high and spectators will be in for some thrilling action,” said Phillips.

At the tournament, there will be mini games for players from the Reach programme to expose the youngsters to hockey at a high level.

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