LOVE IT OR HATE IT

JHL clubs’ re­ac­tion to Thun­der­bolts pro­gramme

New Straits Times - - Sport - JUGJET SINGH jug jet@nst.com.my

ONLY Pe­tal­ing Jaya City Coun­cil (PJCC) Tigers man­aged to steal the thun­der from the four Thun­der­bolts in Di­vi­sion One of the Ju­nior Hockey League (JHL) this sea­son.

Thun­der­bolts is a five-year pro­ject by Malaysian Hockey Con­fed­er­a­tion’s (MHC) main spon­sors who not only pumped money into four premier hockey schools, but also pro­vided nine coach­ing staff.

For­mer in­ter­na­tion­als like Amin Rahim, M. Kal­iswaran and Mad­zli Ik­mar are some of the um­brel­las that have pro­vided win­ning shades for An­der­son, Tunku Mahkota Is­mail Sports School (SSTMI), Pa­hang Hockey Academy and Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).

Run by three-time Olympian Nor Sai­ful Zaini, the Thun­der­bolts pro­gramme is loved and hated by just as many clubs in the JHL.

PJCC stole the League ti­tle, while SSTMI, BJSS, Pa­hang and An­der­son were the or­der in Di­vi­sion One.

But in the TNB Cup knock­out, An­der­son kicked out PJCC and made it a Thun­der­bolts semi-fi­nals. This Sun­day, Pa­hang and SSTMi will bat­tle for the Over­all tro­phy.

“We started the Thun­der­bolts pro­gramme in 2010 and go­ing by the blue­print it will be con­tin­ued for another five years (2022) and the ob­jec­tive is to have a big pool of play­ers, and train as many as pos­si­ble to be­come na­tional ju­niors and then the se­niors.

“We have four schools un­der the pro­gramme and go­ing by the re­cent re­sults in the JHL, we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

“How­ever, due to bud­get con­straints and man­power, we will not ex­pand this pro­gramme to other clubs and con­cen­trate on four,” said Nor Sai­ful.

But the down­side of this suc­cess story is that the other JHL clubs are find­ing it hard to keep pace with the Thun­der­bolts and are feel­ing dis­il­lu­sioned.

“We un­der­stand their grouses, but as I said, we have no more room to ex­pand and what I can sug­gest is that other clubs in the Malaysia Hockey League with big bud­gets should also adopt some of the JHL teams be­cause in the long run, they can source for qual­ity lo­cal play­ers from their ef­forts.

“This is bet­ter than re­ly­ing on for­eign play­ers to carry them in the MHL,” said Nor Sai­ful.

Te­naga Na­sional are the only all-lo­cal side left stand­ing in the MHL, and go­ing by their progress in the four premier hockey schools, they will have a deep pool of tal­ent com­ing from the four Thun­der­bolts to play in the MHL.

Nor Sai­ful Zaini runs the Thun­der­bolts pro­gramme.

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