The greatest psychological
barrier faced by Malaysia Tigress over the years is slowly but surely chipping
away and now chief coach K. Dharmaraj wants his players to start believing in
themselves in the face of bigger challenges ahead.
Dharmaraj wants his charges
to step into forward mode beginning with the five-match test series between the
world No 21 Malaysia Tigress and Olympic bronze medallist and world No 5 New
Zealand from Dec 12-18 in Stratford,
located in north island, with the same kind of
passion produced in the 4th Women Asian Champions Trophy in
Singapore two weeks ago.
“Believe in yourselves.
That’s what we have been telling the players all along and we can sense changes
taking place slowly. They have the potential to play good hockey and it’s only
a matter of giving them opportunities against top teams like New Zealand,” said
Keeping an eagle eye view
as the players pushed through an absorbing physical training programme at the
National Sports Council gymnasium, Dharmaraj confessed that the ACT in
Singapore was the turning point.
“In the past we have always
feared playing against top Asian teams like China, Japan, Korea and India. We
were so contented within our ‘comfort zone’ of beating teams like Cambodia
36-0. So the ACT was indeed an eye opener when we played good and hard hockey.
This momentum has to carry on against New Zealand. The scoreline, big or small,
does not matter. Building their confidence level is far more important.” he
In the WACT, the Tigress
lost 2-5 to world No 9 Korea who scored three quick goals within six minutes
into the game and held world No 9 China to a 1-1 draw for a good 56 minutes only
to allow the Chinese to score two penalty corner goals minutes before the final
They lost to India 0-2 and
defeated world No 10 Japan, 2-0 subsequently. It was Malaysia’s first victory
over Sakura Japan in 30 years. All four of the Asian top ranked teams had
competed in the Rio Olympics in August.
With the New Zealand series
taking a big chunk of the team’s training structure, Dharmaraj believes the
experience in Stratford will
come good when the Tigress stroll into the World League Round 2 in Kuala Lumpur
on Jan 14-22. Malaysia will be up
against ranked teams Italy (world No 15) and Ireland (16) as well as Thailand (31),
Wales (32), Kazakhstan (33), Singapore (43) and Fiji (46).
“Honestly, it was the first
time we played Asian top teams in the ACT and against Korea in the first match the
team froze in the early stage and then got back. They overcame this fear
mentality as results against China, India and Japan proven. New Zealand is
world No 5 and when they go into the World League, they won’t fear nor care
less about ranked teams as they have had the experience of playing top teams already,”
However, with less than a
month for the New Zealand tour, Dharmaraj is hoping for Asia’s No 1 goalkeeper Farah
Ayuni Yahya and defender Nor Hasliza Ali to join the tour. Both players are in
their final phase of trainee inspectors’ course with the Royal Malaysian
written to the Royal Malaysian Police requesting for their release and hope to
receive a favourable reply. Both saw action in the WACT and the New Zealand
tour is also crucial in our preparation for the World League,” he said.
Tigress captain Siti Noor Amarina Ruhani said the ACT experience has lifted the
“We have learned
two things. First is to be physically fit in high level matches as in the ACT and
secondly be mentally strong even when the odds are against us. But we did well
to come back,” said the 29-year-old Amarina who has 96 international caps.
“The most important
things are we should not look too much into rankings of our opponents and do
what needs to be done on the field. If we focus too much on rankings we will
lose our momentum and also unnecessarily create an atmosphere of fear. This has
to end,” she added.