SSTMI Thunderbolts must have felt as mighty as the Greek thunder mythology god Zeus when they edged UniKL Young Guns for the Junior Hockey League double on Sunday.
And they have every reason to feel electrified, as they had thrashed every team in sight this season, except for UniKL, to pick up both the silverware.
However, other than the finalists, the rest of the JHL teams were just making up the numbers, including former six-time double champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
BJSS won the Milo Cup bronze and also finished third in Division One -- a pale shadow of their predecessors who won a whopping six Overall and seven league title from 2003 to 2009.
They only lost out on the double in 2006, when Petaling Jaya Municipal Council beat them to the Overall title.
The rot in BJSS set from 2010 onwards, when they were overtaken by Thunderbolts and UniKL.
There are many reasons why the sports school hit a bad patch, but the damning statement was from one seasoned coach who said parents are keeping their children away from the school.
“Hockey loving parents are no longer interested in sending their children to BJSS because of various reasons, which the school management is aware of but did little to address.
“So now, BJSS are left with crumbs to select from, and had had to make do with rejects from other clubs and states to form a team,” said the coach.
The BJSS nosedive is surprising, as their sister school Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) which evolved from Bandar Penawar Sports School, are enjoying the cream of the crop.
It might be due to Tenaga Nasional’s sponsorship, hence the added name Thunderbolts, to help pump in the money while BJSS the poorer cousin are left with no holding power.
The other six teams in Division One, as well as the 17 teams in Division Two also faced the same problem, as they struggle to sign players as the best jostled and formed long queues to play for high-paying clubs.
Some 17-year-olds in the JHL earn more than RM1,500 per-month, and their contract runs for the whole year. This has left many teams in the lurch, as they struggle to rope in quality players.
Division Two champions Sapura, who made their JHL debut this year, is another club with cash which would be hoping to sign champion material starting from today.
However, the quality-players pie is small, and it will further shrink as players like Thunderbolts’ Milo Cup final hero Firhan Ashaari, will be overage next season and move up to the senior league.
Next year might just turn out to be another UniKL-Thunderbolts show, unless Sapura dangle a bigger carrot.