Hockey continues to develop apace and at all levels of participation in the South Pacific Islands of Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
There has been flurry of hockey activity in recent months at both international and domestic level across the islands.
Teams from Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu participated in the inaugural Intercontinental Hockey5s and are now preparing for the Oceania Youth Olympic Qualifiers later this year.
Both events are providing great opportunities for the players to experience international competition and pit their skills against teams from other countries.
In Vanuatu, at domestic level, the Havannah Hockey League, which took place at the hockey field at Wan Smol Bag, proved to be a hugely competitive affair.
Twelve teams took part in the twice weekly event, with nearly 100 players turning up at the pitch every Tuesday and Thursday.
Five Under 16 teams – three boys and two girl’s teams – competed in the league, alongside seven senior sides – comprising three women’s and four men’s teams.
The event, which ran for three months, will become an annual league and is run by the Vanuatu Hockey Federation.
The dual purpose of the league is to help prepare adult players for competition such as the Hockey5s, while the juniors will get practice ahead of the Hockey Youth Olympic qualifying event, which is taking place in Papua New Guinea.
The eventual winners of the adult league was the women’s team East Coast Sharks, while the Under-16 Boys League was won by Youth Ark 1 and the girls Under-16 League was won by 36 Girls.
Also in Vanuatu, a new programme is being put in place to help people with disabilities to learn hockey skills and become more active through the sport.
Meanwhile, in Tonga, hockey is being introduced to children at a very early age. A recent project has seen Tonga Hockey Development Officer Hiko Fungavaka and Australian volunteer Lewis Keane busy promoting hockey at the Wesleyan Church Primary School in Nuku’alofa. Heaps of children from the age of five to 11 took part in fun activities, training and a festival of hockey.
It was certainly young players who led the way in the Solomon Islands domestic league. The Colombo Club won the 2017 league with a 1-0 victory over Wantoks Hockey Club in the Grand Final.
The result was a surprise as Wantoks had been favourite to lift the trophy but Colombo Club, comprising Under-18 players who were using the league as preparation for the Youth Olympic Qualifiers, played magnificently in the final to snatch a win from their senior counterparts.
In the women’s league, it was Wantoks who prevailed after they beat Parrots 3-2 in an exciting final.
Whether it is school matches, club leagues or players preparing for international competition, there is a buzz and excitement around hockey on these remote islands that is infectious. It is also highly promising for the global development of our sport.
Projects such as these, which introduce sustainable hockey activities to diverse communities are very much aligned to the FIH 10-Year strategy. Much of the work in the Pacific Islands has been carried out in conjunction with, and supported by, the Oceania Hockey Federation and the FIH Targeted Assistance Programme (TAP).
By increasing the degree of professionalism amongst the organisations in Oceania it is hoped that this Programme will contribute to the FIH strategy's overall aim of making hockey a global game that inspires future generations.
For more information about hockey in the Pacific islands, contact the .