PROJECT 2013 won a refreshing gold in the Sultan of Johor Cup but their true test will come in the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca on May 3-13.
Coach K. Dharmaraj's charges finally landed the elusive international gold medal, immaterial whether at senior or junior level, when they beat Australia 3-2 in extra-time in the inaugural Sultan of Johor Cup.
For the record, Malaysia's other hockey gold medals were all won at the Sea Games.
And for the Junior Asia Cup, which also doubles up as a Junior World Cup Qualifier, the target is to finish in the top two and make the grade.
Defending champions India, as hosts of the Junior World Cup, snatched a spot while nine other teams -- Pakistan, South Korea, Japan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, Thailand and Malaysia -- will make up the rest.
The top three finishers in Malacca qualify for the World Cup, but Dharmaraj wants the gold medal. "We must not only play in the final in Malacca but also win the gold medal because it is becoming increasingly difficult to play in the World Cup and Olympics as the standard among teams around the world is fast improving," he said.
His confidence stems from the fact that his players made short work out of Australia, South Korea, India, Pakistan and New Zealand to lay their hands on the Sultan of Johor Cup.
"I was fortunate to see for myself lower ranked teams like Ukraine, Chile and Russia play in the Dublin Olympic Qualifier and was shocked at how much they have improved," said Dharmaraj.
"They have strong basics and good dribbling skills, The only area they are lacking is penalty corner executions and also PC defence.
"They lost out in that two areas, but I believe in a few years it will be difficult to make the World Cup and Olympic grades if our juniors do not start having the winning attitude in them."
And that is why even if his charges need only to finish among the top three in Malacca, Dharmaraj wants the gold medal badly.
With the inclusion of brothers Faizal and Fitri Saari into the Project squad, the coach's target is not far fetched.
"Both will be of great help as they showed maturity in their touches in Dublin," said Dharmaraj.