The hairs on the back of the neck rose as Fiji faced Tonga in the HWL Round One. This was sports entertainment at its thrilling best as both teams went through their traditional war cries before bursting into action. All of the participating teams at this event are still developing hockey within their communities, but the passion and energy that was put into this Round One event is a sign that the sport is growing fast across the Oceania region.
Both Fiji men and Fiji women finished the Hockey World League Round One event in Suva, Fiji, as overall champions after four days of thrilling, fast-paced hockey. The two teams now have six to eight months to prepare before they take on higher ranked opposition and other Round One qualifiers in HWL Round Two.
The atmosphere at the Fiji National Hockey Centre was ramped up a few notches as some of the teams started their matches with traditional Pacific Island war cries – Fiji greeted its opponents with the ‘cibi’, while Tonga laid down a challenge with the blood curdling ‘ikale tahe’.
The excitement, colour and noise all served to meet the Fiji government’s aim of lifting the national mood after the devastation wreaked across the islands by a cyclone earlier in the year.
The Fiji teams were unbeaten in all their matches, although Fiji men were run very close by a Vanuatu side, with the game going to shoot-out after it ended 4-4 in regulation time.
Fiji women’s best result was a 19-1 win against Tonga, while the men pitched in with a 15-1 win over the same opposition.
Vanuatu men finished second in the group, losing only to Fiji, while Papua New Guinea took third place after some good wins against Solomon Islands and Tonga.
In the women’s competition, Papua New Guinea took second place. They won four of their six games, including a 10-1 win over Tonga and two very close encounters with the Solomon Islands - in which Papua New Guinea emerged as 2-1 and 6-3 winners.
Among the stars who will be taking their game to the Hockey World League Round two competition are the brother and sister duo Leevan and Tiara Dutta, two of Fiji’s top goal scorers. Leevan was on form for the men, particularly when slotting seven goals past the Solomon Islands in one match, while Tiara, who also captains her team, managed to find the net nine times during Fiji’s game against Tonga.
Leevan finished top scorer on 23 goals, with Vanuatu’s Ben Sam on 17 and another Fiji player, Krristofer Mock on 12. Tiara scored four more than her brother to take the top scorer prize for the women, while teammate Maxine Browne came joint second alongside Alice Fred with 13 goals.
The final places were:
HWL Round One men:
1 Fiji - qualified for HWL 2
3 Papua New Guinea
4 Solomon Islands
HWL Round One women:
1 Fiji - qualified for HWL 2
2 Papua New Guinea
3 Solomon Islands
Take a look back at the the event here