By HENRY MORABANG
PAPUA New Guinea’s national hockey teams left yesterdayfor the 2017 Oceania Cup championships in Sydney, Australia.
The Oceania Cup is from Oct 11-15. PNG Hockey president Kaluwin Potuan said their participation was part of hockey development in the region.
Super powers of the game, Australia and New Zealand, are taking the lead while Pacific island countries are trying to close the gap by competing in such regional tournaments.
Currently, PNG and Fiji are the two leading island countries apart from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa.
Kaluwin said the PNG team, comprising 14 men and 14 women would take part in the 11-a-side tournament against Australia and New Zealand while other island countries such as Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu will take part in the 5-aside tournament.
Fiji will send a women’s team for the five-a-side competition.
Potuan said he saw PNG’s participation in the 11-aside hockey format as a bid for one of only three spots available for Oceania in the Commonwealth Games. “It is more like a wild card entry as Fiji failed to send the team this year,” Kaluwin said.
PNG’s best performance at this level was in 2014 in New Zealand where they finished fourth behind Australia, the Black Sticks and Fiji.
Potuan said there would be no hockey tournament in the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu and also the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.
Hockey was originally on Tonga’s sports programme when it won the bid to host the Games but has since been removed from the list of sports when the Games were transferred to Samoa.
The Oceania Cup is the continental championship from which the winner of the men and women qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The women’s World Cup is in London in July, 2018 and the men’s World Cup in India in Nov, 2018.
Kaluwin said the Oceania Cup would be run in conjunction with a new event, the Oceania Hockey 5s Intercontinental Cup.
Fixtures: (men) Wed, Oct, 11 – Australia v PNG; Thurs, Oct 12 – New Zealand v Australia; Sat, Oct 14 – PNG v New Zealand; (women) Wed, Oct, 11 – PNG v New Zealand; Thurs, Oct 12 – Australia v PNG; Sat, Oct 14 – New Zealand v Australia.
By HENRY MORABANG