SEA Games: Dwyer feels Singapore can match Malaysia

SEA Games: Dwyer feels Singapore can match Malaysia
Hockey Australia chief executive Cam Vale and five-time World player of the year, Jamie Dwyer.

He has personally led training sessions at the Sengkang Stadium, and has had a close-up look at the Singapore men's hockey players in competitive fixtures when they were on a training stint in Perth last month.

And Australia international Jamie Dwyer believes that Solomon Casoojee's side have improved enough to launch a genuine challenge for gold at the South-east Asia Games on home soil, even if they are up against Malaysia, far and away the best team in the region.

Malaysia sit in 12th spot in the world rankings while Singapore are 38th.

"In their games (in Perth), I thought (the Singapore players) really improved a lot, individually. In fact, that's what I told Mark (Knowles, Australia captain) after I saw them," said Dwyer, at the sidelines of Monday's press conference announcing the partnership between Hockey Australia and Singapore-owned regional company, The Project Group (TPG).

"They just need to put it together as a team, and if they can get confidence, I don't think there will be much between them and Malaysia," added the five-time World Player of the Year.

As part of his work with TPG Academy - launched in December last year and aimed at improving the standard of Singapore hockey - the 36-year-old Dwyer, along with Knowles and a few other Australian internationals, led sessions with the men's national side.

Dwyer believes one key difference between average teams and the great ones, is consistency.

"The problem is this: in some matches, (the Singapore men) do brilliantly, but when they're bad, they're really poor.

"And that's the difference. Take Australia for instance: even when we're bad, we're not that poor," said Dwyer, who won both the Commonwealth Games and World Cup with Australia last year.

But he has seen enough grit among the Singapore men to tip them for bigger things.

"The bunch of players who were here were really dedicated, they trained really hard and I believe all of them could play in the league in Australia," said Dwyer.

"And if they did come over and play week in, week out, at this level of hockey, at this intensity, it would really help them - and the Singapore team - improve.

"Teams like Japan weren't that good a while ago, but they put in the effort and have closed the gap with the rest of the world, just like China did before the (2008 Beijing) Olympics.

"I think it's possible for Singapore to go out there and do the same."

Dwyer knows a thing or two about stepping it up to compete with the best. Last year, he contemplated hanging up his stick, but a stint in the India Hockey League proved that he still had what it takes, a point he showed at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia earlier this month.

Australia finished second to New Zealand, but Dwyer topped the goalscorers' chart, with seven strikes.

"Last year I was unsure about my future, didn't know if I still had enough to contribute, but I really enjoy the game, and being part of the team, and I needed to prove to myself that I could still play," he said.

"I think my touch on the ball is as good as the next guy. It's just a question of if my body can keep up.

"That's the problem - my age. I really need to be vigilant, with food, with what I drink, stretching, the works."

As a testament to his dedication to a professional athlete's lifestyle, Dwyer finished near the top in fitness tests conducted by the Kookaburras.

"I finished second (in the team) in the Beep Test, and I was second fastest over a 10-metre sprint - that really gave me confidence," said Dwyer.

"Now I feel that I can still contribute."

This article was first published on April 30, 2015.
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