THE next time Australia’s men’s and women’s hockey teams play in Perth they will be at the forefront of an ambitious new home and away league.
In a step away from the traditional tournament style international meets, the Pro League is the Federation of International Hockey’s answer to a home and away competition featuring the top nine hockey nations men’s and women’s teams.
Both the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos will play in Perth on February 16, against old enemy Great Britain.
FIH Pro League manager Mathilde Grenet said she hoped the Pro League format would lead to greater exposure for national teams and more opportunity for players to become sporting heroes.
“Before we had more tournament formats where all the teams travelled to one location,” she said.
“The drawback with that is you don’t always get a home crowd, but now you will have local fans in each country.”
Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne will also host Pro League fixtures featuring Australia in 2019 and in a coupe for the sport’s professionalism, all games will be broadcast on Fox Sports as part of a five-year partnership.
Also taking part are New Zealand, the United States, China, Pakistan Argentina and European powerhouses Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
“The biggest nations of hockey in the world will come to Australia and Perth will receive Great Britain on the 16th of February,” Grenet said.
“There are many English people living here so hopefully Perth will be able to get a good crowd here at the stadium.”
The Pro League will feature about 150 matches and conclude with a finals series played in Amsterdam.
Grenet lives and works in Switzerland but is a former budding tennis star who grew up in France.
She has spent four years working to develop the Pro League concept and change the collective minds of hockey administrators around the world to move away from traditional tournaments and is eager to see the first games get underway in January.
Before her visit to Perth in December to check out Perth Hockey Stadium and get a feel for Hockey Australia’s preparations, Grenet said she knew of the city’s tennis tournament – the Hopman Cup – and its links to mining and beautiful beaches.
“It will be nice also for the visiting teams to get to know Australia,” she said.
“For Great Britain I’m sure they will have a great time in Perth.”