As the wait ended for the 2017 Premier Hockey League, so too did the clouds open up on Randburg Astroturf. The weather robbed us of two of the opening games, but the excitement was not diminished at all. Of course, there may have been a few fewer bums on seats in the crowd due to the weather, but no fewer eyes on the Hockey as the coverage from Supersport was World Class once again.

In a bit of a tradition, we started last year, we thought we would give you a recap of a difference. The press releases you can read elsewhere on the big wide web, but here are some opinions of what we saw in the opening weekend of PHL 2017.

Results of Week One (M)

Results of Week One (W)

Game of the Week (M) – Maropeng Cavemen 3-2 Addo Elephants

Last year the two sides took each other on in the final, with the Cavemen emerging victorious. Both teams had started with defeats, Cavemen on a showdown after a washout and the Elephants with a humbling defeat. Both would need to start positively to get their tournaments underway. Julian Hykes, however, managed to blot that playbook for the Cavemen netting a very Julian-like goal in the third minute.  It would take the Cavemen to just before half-time before they leveled and it was through anniversary celebrating Ricky West. Ignatius Malgraff, the 2016 top scorer, then put the Elephants back in the lead in a game where they were showing much better desire than the day before. But on the stroke of the end of the third chukka Lungani Gabela finished off an opportunity to leave it level. With the game heading towards the dreaded showdowns up popped Ricky West once again to show that experience is such a key part of the game. The Osaka man finished with brilliance to secure the 3 points for the defending champions and put the Elephants in early danger of missing out on the Playoffs.

Picture – Marcel Sigg

Game of the Week (W) – Namaqualand Daisies 4-3 Orange River Rafters

The Daisies look leagues better than the disjointed side that was cast aside last year and they produced an outstanding attacking display to thwart the Orange River Rafters. Two early field goals by Tegan Fourie and Kirsty Adams gave the SA U21 ladies the 2-0 Halftime lead. The impressive Varsity College star Donna Small pulled one back but the Daisies quickly re-established the two-goal lead at the end of the third chukka when Ongeziwe Mali, having a superb game, finished clinically. The final chukka would produce the drama however as Marie Louw and Taryn Mallet each scored from Penalty corners to make it 3-3 with 90 seconds remaining. Then Kristen Paton popped up to win the game just before the end with a great goal (more on that below). It was an outstanding game to highlight the return of PHL.

Team of the Week (M) – Drakensberg Dragons

In my preview of the tournament, I picked them as my favourites. They are still going to add strength to the team as Austin Smith will arrive to bolster their short corner play and defense, but Sihle will be much happier with the start to this year’s tournament. After two games they sit at the top of the pile including picking up a bonus point in defeating the Addo Elephants, the runners-up last year convincingly. Jethro Eustice once again shone for his team and was monumental in his leadership as the team emerged victorious via showdowns against a much-improved display from the Golden Gate Gladiators. Last year they finished last, this year they will already have their eyes firmly on the semi-finals.

Team of the Week (W) – Blyde River Bunters

Its hard to pick anyone other than Lindsey Wright’s defending champions. They looked assured in the first 30 minutes against the Daisies and convincing in the 3-1 win over the Lakers. Mbande / Hattingh in goal behind Celia and Nicolene provides a base to really build off of. The performance of Thati Segaole this weekend will also be particularly pleasing for the defending champions who probably don’t score enough goals if there is any criticism of them. Two from two the perfect start and a foot in the semi-finals after just one weekend is nothing to complain about though!

Goal of the Week – Kristen Paton (Daisies) vs. Rafters

In the topsy-turvy game described above, it was down to a moment of brilliance from Kristen Paton as she took the ball and somehow created space for herself in between three Rafters defenders. With incredible fluid motion, she moved into space and fired home the match-winning goal. It was a really outstanding goal and if Supersport put the highlights on Youtube I will share a link for you to see it!

Player of the Week (M) – Jarryd Jones (Mambas)

Ricky West was outstanding today on his anniversary, however, it was the hand control and skill from Jarryd Jones that gets the nod for us. His hat-trick put him to the top of the charts in a 6-1 demolition of the Gladiators and it was a timely reminder for those watching of the Indoor Hockey National Player’s ridiculous talent. His three goals were all field goals and that is also a treat for the watching spectators.

Player of the Week (W) – Mpumelela Mbande (Bunters)

In a week where I really started to realise how much talent we have in the goalkeeping department across the country, there was one player that really stood out for me. Although the first game was rained off at half-time, Phumi kept her remarkable record going and did not concede in either game she played in. She was also the hero of the showdowns against the Daisies earning her the Player of the Match. That she had to go out to her corporate year-end function (she is CA, much to my personal delight) on Saturday and came back and shone again shows why she should be so highly thought of as the long-term replacement for Sanani Mangisa.

Picture – Marcel Sigg

A view from the Players

Kristen Paton

“I can’t fault our effort on the pitch. We came out and competed and created scoring opportunities which is really exciting. We are obviously inexperienced and that led to us conceding (especially in today’s game against rafters) but lessons learned and we will analyze our performance this weekend and make sure we are better defensively. We will be joined by Hannah Pearce next weekend which will aid our defense and outlet as she is our center back. All in all, it’s a positive start and this group is very exciting.”

Kristen PatonNamaqualand Daisies
Celia Evans

“After not playing last year I was really excited for PHL to start. What has shocked me the most is that there is no clear winner. Each and every game is a fight. This type of hockey excites me and makes it worthwhile. I’m really impressed with the standard of the schoolgirls, they play with so much energy and skill. It was really important for us Bunters to first become a team and then worry about structure and tactics. This is where Lindsey is amazing. Nothing is more important than the team. Its only Monday and I can’t wait for Saturday!

Celia EvansBlyde River Bunters

The JET View

Photo – Marcel Sigg

South Africa’s current star player and our first name on the sheet, Jethro Eustice, has popped in to give us some feedback on PHL week 1. We love giving a voice to the players and here is the JET view!

The first weekend of the second season of the South African Premier League Hockey, started with a few interesting situations. All players both male and female were extremely excited about being apart of the highly exciting PHL. The updated kits, the revamping of squads, and the change in time of year seems to make this year PHL, even better than anything the South African Hockey public has experienced before.

This definitely seems to the be right option of development of hockey in SA. From a Drakensberg Dragons point of view, The Peoples Team began extremely well with an extremely early first game. The match against the Addo Elephants, last years runners-up, starts at an early 8am pushback, which meant a lot of the players needing to get the engines running more earlier than expected. This seemed to help the ever exciting Elephants players, who seem to be on point at the start of the match. The Elephants definitely needed to convert the start in order to take control of the match but lacked the final touch to get the ball in the back of the net. The Dragons players, with arguably the best group of players in the PHL, took control and gathered themselves well, to finally score two goals before halftime. This would then lead to a total control of the match and pushed hard for the win and the bonus point as well. With lots of possession and better forwards going stats, than the Elephant, The Dragons seemed to dominate the final plays of the game, and giving the team from the Drakensberg, a full 4 points, with a 4 – 0 win over the Addo Elephants.

As for the rest of the first day, the rain-affected many of the other games, which lead to two games going to the exciting 8-second shoot-out. Obviously not what certain teams wanted, but definitely made the crowd sit at the edge of their seats.

The second day, brought sunshine and even more entertainment as all the games saw lots of goals and really tight affairs between some of the title contending teams. The Dragons final match of the weekend was against the Golden Gate Gladiators, the SA U21 team-leading towards African Cup qualifier next year. The Gladiators had a tough first day, and this proved to spur them on to bite and scratch for a result against the Dragons. The game wasn’t a fast-paced affair with the Gladiators having more of the ball possession but lacked lots of penetration in the Dragons Circle, with only having one circle entry in the second quarter. This entry would lead to the only chance the Gladiators had in the first half, and they manage to make it count by winning a penalty stroke, that was then converted. Again the Dragons, with all the experience and possibly the most balanced side, took control and manage to score two critical goals, to take the lead with around 10mins to play. With the score being 2-1 for the good of the Dragons, the game seemed to increase and players from both teams trying their best to seal a result. With some interesting decisions and changes to the game, the Gladiators drew level from a very well taken Penalty Corner, the game ending 2 all. With the PHL rules, wanting a winner from each game. The ever exciting 8-second shoot-out was on the call again to sort out the winner of this game. Gowan Jones was outstanding with managing to concede 1 out of 4 shoot-outs, and the experience of Dalan Phillips, Taylor Dart, and a converted Stroke from Gareth Heyns gave the Dragons the vital 3 points from the Game.

Out of the first weekend, the Dragons managed to get a possible 7 points out of 8, to lead the table going into the ever important second weekend, were a possible win will be enough to secure a semi-final spot, and giving the Dragons their first chance of competing in the final weekend of the PHL tournament.