JUNIOR Hockey League (JHL) League champions UniKL Young Guns will miss the services of 16 players for this season, but are still confident of challenging both the titles at stake.
The JHL will start on Jan 19, with a record 26 teams competing in Division One and Division Two.
UniKL will be among the nine in Division One, while 17 will be placed in two groups in Division Two.
“We started in 2010 as a feeder for the MHL (Malaysia Hockey League) and it was a success as 21 players went on to play in the senior league, and then 13 of our current and former players donned national juniors colours.
“The 13 former and current UniKl players helped Malaysia win the Sultan of Johor Cup, and four of them are also in training with the senior side for the Olympic Qualifiers,” said UniKL team manager Amir Azhar.
This is no small feat, considering that player pinching is rampant and no team can sustain its momentum without pumping in the money as well.
“We only have six players from last season to rely upon, but the new faces have proven to be capable replacements and we will be among the teams to beat for titles in Division One,” said Amir.
For this season, UniKL started preparing right after the last season ended in October.
“We have been training regularly with a Five-days a week training schedule which focused on fitness in the morning and game development in the evening.
“The Young Guns also competed in Division One of the KL League and finished in a credible fourth with five wins including against Sapura and a draw against Tenaga Na sional.
“We also organized a team-building camp from Jan 6-8 in Port Dickson and should peak nicely for the JHL,” said Amir.
Amir feels the traditional Big Four will again rule Division One: “Thunderbolt, BJSS, PJMC and UniKL Young Guns will still be the early favourites in Division One.
“While in Division Two, I expect newcomers Sapura to not only win the League title, but also make an impact in the Overall knock-out stages.”