BY ROMULUS HUTA
IN PORT VILA, VANUATU
SOLOMON Islands is rapidly improving in hockey, says the competition manager of the regional hockey governing body.
Oceania Hockey Federation (OHF) Competition Manager Kevin Peeble said since the reintroduction of hockey in Solomon Islands three years ago, much improvement have been shown on the regional stage.
This level of improvement can be measured with the standard the national teams are showcasing and the effort they are putting into their game on the turf against other teams in Oceania who have been playing the sport for many years, according to Peeble.
Peeble is in Vanuatu at the moment as one of the key members of the organising committee for the Oceania Qualification for the World Hockey Series which was held last week at the Wan SmolBag Hockey Stadium in Port Vila.
The competition also doubles as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“We’re very impressed with the way Solomon Islands have come in their standard of hockey.
“The way and the standard shown while playing here during the tournament was very good. And for a country that has been playing hockey for not very long, its development is being really good.”
Peeble added he admires the way President of Solomon Islands Hockey Federation (SIHF) Nihal Seneviratne handle matters regarding hockey development there.
“Solomon Islands have a very good administration with Nihal running and revitalizing hockey in Solomon Islands along with its development personnel Allen Temoa.”
Inorder to grow and develop the code further, Peeble insisted he would like to see a proper hockey facility developed to aid the further promotion of the game.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have an artificial ground but they are very expensive.
“Or maybe we can just built a half size pitch like this one in Vanuatu where it’s much cheaper.
“Once Solomon Islands players can get used to playing on a proper facility, their skills will improve very rapidly.
“So I think from the Oceania point of view, we’d like to see some development of facilities in Solomon Islands so that the players can get better.
“And of course this means that we can start getting the children into hockey and develop their skill level at a younger age and they will develop the same way as in Fiji and Vanuatu or elsewhere around the world,” he explained.
Solomon Islands participated in last week’s Oceania hockey competition with both the men’s and the women’s national teams but fell short against the Melanesian hockey powerhouses Fiji and Vanuatu.
Peeble stressed that the results attained by Solomon Islands during this most recent Oceania competition is not a matter of great concern to him.
“Don’t worry about the scores. But just worry about coaching the girls and the boys. I have already spoken to a few Solomon Islands hockey officials during the tournament and told them to continue coaching and training the way they want hockey to develop there.
“I also strongly emphasised that don’t expect the results to be very good in early years. You will get better as you develop. And especially if they manage to get the programme running well on track,” he assures.
The Oceania hockey development manager highlighted that Fiji and Vanuatu are very good because they have been playing for a very long time and are slowly developing close enough to the other two Oceania heavyweights Australia and Zealand, who are in fact ranked as the best hockey teams in the world.
“In Oceania we have Australia and New Zealand who are highly ranked of course and the island states are at various stages of development.
“Therefore Fiji has been playing hockey for many many years. In my experience, I’ve played against Fiji Hockey in 1970 so they have good facilities and been playing for a long time whereas Vanuatu maybe about 12 years and they have grown to become much better since we’ve put up this artificial pitch down here. Tonga and Solomon Islands very recent, so are developing in hockey standards.
“So in overall thinking, the standard for Solomon Islands is developing. Things will get better over the next few years. Mark my words.”
Peeble said he hopes to see a much improved result in next year’s Oceania Cup in Australia where holds a second chance opportunity for Pacific Islands states to compete in another qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan.