THE MALAYSIA Hockey League (MHL) Division One and Women's tournament will begin today, with hope of new talent emerging from the ranks.
The Premier Division will take off with double champions Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) playing Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) in the Charity Shield on Sunday.
The six-team Premier Division has 24 foreign players, and established national and former national players. The only bright sparks for development here are UniKL Young Guns who parade 11 2016 Junior World Cup trainees, and Tenaga Nasional fielding 90 per cent youth.
Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) CEO K. Logan Raj said: "Event though the Premier Division looks like its heavy with foreign players, the reality is that we need to keep its prestige to attract the fans as well as give our local players a chance to learn by playing and adapting themselves in different situations."
The other three in the Premier Division are Sapura, Tenaga Nasional and Maybank.
Tenaga Nasional are the only team without foreign players, and they will stick to their vision of nurturing locals from their partner school -- Sekolah Sukan Tunku Mahkota Ismail.
UniKL are also continuing their proud tradition in nurturing juniors.
"We had 12 UniKL players in the last Junior World Cup squad (which finished fourth in New Delhi) and this MHL team would have 11 2016 Junior World Cup trainees.
"In the short history of our club (established 2009) we have managed to nurture many players with our junior development programmes. The MHL will see 11 Junior World Cup trainees, and hopefully it will benefit them when they play in the Junior Asia Cup (in Kuantan, which is a JWC qualifier)," said team manager Faiz Isa.
As for the Charity Shield, KLHC will be gunning for their fourth shield, while THT their first. For the record, the Charity shield also offers three points to the winner.
KLHC won the Shield in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The other three editions were won by Tenaga Nasional in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
"With all our foreign players (four Argentines and a Pakistan) having arrived on Wednesday, we will surely be looking to claim the early three points," said THT coach Sarjit Singh.
As for KLHC coach K. Dharmaraj, he prefers the underdogs tag.
"THT would like a good start, just like any other team, but I'm happy to play the underdogs against early favourites THT, and if we can't claim not full points, at least one point would do in the opener."
TODAY: Division One A: MSP-YP-SSP v MSNT-THT (Kuantan, 5pm), MBI v MASUM-USM (Azlan Shah, 5pm), TNB Thunderbolts v BJSS (Taman Daya II, 5pm); Division One B: Nur Insafi-Penang Hockey v UiTM (Sg Petani, 5pm), Politeknik v SSTMI (Taman Daya I).
Women: MSNT-PHT v ATM Pernama (SHBB, 5pm).