Monday, March 14, 2016

JHL: Season of promise...

File Pic: BJSS' Arif Sabron attempt to score a goal as he is challenged by Olak's Mohamad Amirul Akmal in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League match at Tun Razak.

THIS season's Junior Hockey League (JHL) showed promise, as there were six quality teams, and the quarter-finals onwards showcased quality matches.
  And the domination of teams under the Tenaga Nasional Thunderbolts programme saw a meteoriate rise in certain teams, especially TNB Cup champions Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
  BJSS was the team to beat in the early 2000s, as collected an impressive seven League titles (2003, '04, '05, '06, '07, '08 and '09) and five Overall titles (2004, '05, '07, '08, '09) but after that, Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) took over the reigns.
  For the record, SSTMI won six League (2011, '12, '13, '14, '15, '16) and four Overall titles (2012, '13, '14, '15).
  BJSS were the whipping boys of the JHL when SSTMI took over, but just four months under the Thunderbolts programme run by ex-internationals employed by Tenaga Nasional, the sports school beat SSTMI 4-3 to lift a long-awaited TNB Cup title.
  And the fact that BJSS were down 1-3, and rose to the challenge to lift the title, shows the boys have character.
  Toast of the final was Arif Sabron, who scored four goals for BJSS, a historic feat which was a first by any player in a JHL final since its inception in 1995.
  Arif had 16 goals to his name before the start of the final, and the top-scorer at the moment was Hafiizhuddin Zaidi on 19 goals. But Arif's four saw him leapfrog to the top.
  The six teams which had quality players were SSTMI Thunderbolts, BJSS Thunderbolts, SSP-MSP Thunderbolts, Anderson Thunderbolts, UniKL Young Guns and BJSS Juniors.
  BJSS Juniors and Anderson are from Division Two, but will play in the higher division next season.
  Anderson can also be consider at the fairy-tale of the season, as they topped Group B, then won the Division Two play-off to qualify for Division One next year, and then became the first Division Two team in the JHL to advance to the semi-finals of the TNB Cup.
  Others before this could not clear the quarter-finals stage.
  Interestingly, only three Anderson players will be overage next season, and the Ipoh school will be among the teams to be watched.
  The most disappointing team of the season title went to UniKL Young Guns, who were just floating along, and even though they finished third in Division One, were bundled out of the TNB Cup quarter-finals by Division Two's Anderson.
   And with the Thunderbolts programme in the picture, regular JHL teams like UniKL, Petaling Jaya City Council and Old La Sallians Association of Klang are expected to face a troubled season next year, because they lack funding and expert coaches to rise to the Tenaga Nasional challenge.