Surgery needed to save Inland hockey

2009-05-28 00:00

THE drop in standard of the KZN Inland Men’s Premier Hockey League is an illness that can be cured.

Maritzburg Varsity are the strongest club by far in the province, while PMB Collegians — their rivals in a region with a low player base at club level, are getting weaker and weaker.

Just a few seasons ago, Collegians won the league in an epic play-off against a stronger Varsity side on paper. It was the culmination of passionate, inspired club hockey matches. And prior to the play-off, the season had ended in a mire of accusation and counter-accusation — the gossipy stuff that makes sport so compelling.

The gap was widening even then, but Varsity’s top-class coaching and ability to subsidise the subs of non-students (it’s an open club) gave them the edge.

The tailing off of Collegians’ coaching and administrative stalwarts only added to the gulf. And today, Collegians as a hockey force is on the verge of collapsing.

The question is, why do Varsity have so many non-students playing in their ranks — it’s killing the league — and why do none of the recently retired Collegians put a little something back into hockey: the Collegians Masters team in the lower leagues is packed with provincial players with decades of experience.

The superb KZN Super League of last year was outstanding competition. It was aborted for reasons outside the players’ interests. Durban and PMB players should stand together and demand its reinstatement. If their call goes unheeded, they should boycott the KZN teams for the Interprovincial.

If this does not happen, we could see a farcical situation where top SA star Tommy Hammond has to play in a 15-0 drubbing of Collegians (as happened last Sunday) before facing world and Olympic champions Germany a fortnight later.

Why not loan out Varsity second team players to Collegians, like the top soccer leagues do? That way everyone can have better opposition and better match practice.

For the other Inland club players the solution is “social” hockey — serious on the field, but not requiring the serious commitment premier club hockey should demand.

Top hockey is professional in everything but the name. Players, club teams and provincial unions must decide whether they are serious or social, and not waste anybody’s time by pretending otherwise.

 

Weekend fixture:

Sunday: Varsity I vs Collegians II (8.30 am, AB Jackson Greenfields Turf).

Time and date subject to confirmation.

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