30 Oct 2013

Sport: Hockey on the rise in Samoa

5:41 pm on 30 October 2013

The Samoa Hockey Federation says this week's Oceania Cup tournament in New Zealand is a chance to see how far the sport has developed over the past five years.

In a country where rugby dominates, Samoa recently surpassed 1,000 active hockey players.

The national men's and women's team will compete in Taranaki this week against New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea, with the top two finishers qualifying for next year's World Cup in the Netherlands.

The President of the Samoan Federation, and national men's coach, Taiva Ah Young, told Vinnie Wylie this week's tournament is a challenge on many levels.

TAIVA AH YOUNG: Samoa doesn't have astroturf. That's why we came early to get used to the astroturf here. So the boys and the ladies are getting used to it, and they're practicing well.

VINNIE WYLIE: Obviously, going into a tournament like this, Australia and New Zealand are seen as the favourites and the front-runners. What are your expectations for your team?

TAY: We've only developed hockey in the last five years, since 2008 we've revived hockey. So we've been sending out a lot of national players and development players. And this team is about the best team that we could feel so far. It's really a challenge for us to play against Australia and New Zealand 'cause it's going to really gauge the skill level that we're at. So it's really very exciting for us to know where we're insofar as competing with the world number one and the world number five.

VW: And is all of your team based in Samoa, or have you selected anyone from overseas?

TAY: For the ladies, there's two from New Zealand and for the men there's one from Fiji, but they've all got some Samoan connections.

VW: And did you have many people to choose from? You mentioned that you guys have a push back in Samoa to get more people playing hockey and trying to develop it. Is there a strong interest back home? Are there people wanting to play?

TAY: We're very happy to let you know that just last month we had our 1,000th player, so that means we have already 1,000 players playing hockey in Samoa. And it's just a matter of selecting the best players there is to represent Samoa.

VW: Is there any sort of goal, targeting maybe one win or a certain sort of margin or a couple of wins? Any particular team you think you can beat? I imagine the matches against PNG will be hardly fought?

TAY: Well, it's going to be a good game with PNG. But as I said before, it's going to be really a challenge for us to play against Australia and New Zealand. We've just got to gauge the level where we are against a world number-one team. So it's going to be really exciting for us, especially for management. It's going to give us a lot of ideas of what is next for Samoa. We have introduced hockey now in primary schools and high schools, which means that when we go back we've also been talking to a lot of people here about development, hockey development. So it's going to be an exciting period for Samoa, for the next five years.