Hockey: Selection brings relief

2008-06-13 00:00

After the hullabaloo over the SA men’s hockey team’s selection, it is noticeable how many of them and their women counterparts spent high school in KZN.

Including the three unfortunate ones who just missed out and are non-travelling reserves, fully a quarter of those going to Beijing’s Olympic Games are in that category.

Darryn Gallagher, Tommy Hammond, Geoff Abbott and Marvin Harper completed their secondary education at Maritzburg College. Sanani Mangisa was at Epworth while Kate Hector (Durban Girls’ College), Lenise Marais (New Forest) and Marsha Marescia (Northland Girls’) were the distance of the Comrades Marathon down the road.

Non-travelling reserves Ben Mbana, Gareth Carr and Shanyl Balwanth were at Hilton, Maritzburg College and Glenwood, while SA Hockey Association (Saha) president Dave Carr went to Estcourt.

After the teams were announced at lunchtime on Thursday, the relief of three of the players (the Spar SA women are in Dublin) was palpable.

Saha president Carr, too, sounded like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders although he was dealing admirably with the disappointment that his son had just missed out (again) on representing his country at a world event.

The younger Carr has now been a non-travelling reserve for the 2006 World Cup and Commonwealth Games, and now the Beijing Olympics.

“Now everyone knows where they are,” Dave Carr said. “Only 16 can go and I believe the selectors have done their homework over the last two years.

“It is now up to those in the side to focus on the job at hand while those non-travelling reserves are reminded to keep fit as they may also be called up in the manner that the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, were for the Rugby World Cup last year.” Indeed, both came into the Springbok team during the event itself.

Gallagher (age 31, 80 Tests), Hammond (23, 30 Tests) and Abbott (23, 27 Tests) variously described the hours up to the team’s announcement as “stomach-churning, couldn’t keep still”, “waiting was the hardest part”, “nerve-wracking, kept pressing my computer’s ‘send and receive’” before they got the message from coach Gregg Clark.

All three were with the SA team in Beijing last month. Their descriptions of the city ran from “awesome, very neat, flower beds everywhere” to “smog not so bad, people everywhere” and “Beijing never sleeps, it’s non-stop 24 hours”.

It’s now 57 days to the tournament and preparations have moved into top gear.

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