The highly anticipated fourth season of the CTM PHL took a step up in preparation tonight as the teams were finalised after the draft. The draft, which is based on the American sports draft system as seen in the likes of the NBA and NFL, sees the selected coaching teams battle for players to fill their squads. The draft is seen as a great curtain raiser to the tournament and such is its innovative nature that it was shortlisted for the Sports Industry Awards 2018 for “Cutting Edge Sport Award”.
Each squad consists of 20 players, made up of 7 marquee players as determined by SA Hockey’s High-Performance team, with a further 3 players into their 20 from the “new generation” pool featuring the country’s most exciting young talent. Coaches were forced to release between 4 and 8 players from the 2018 squads ahead of the draft.
In the men’s tournament the only change to the coaching staff was Neville Rothmann, who as head coach for the SA U21 Coach, will lead the Golden Gate Gladiators. Returning coaches are Mark Sanders (Cavemen), Ashlin Freddy (Gazelles), Cheslyn Gie (Elephants), Lungile Tsolekile (Mambas) and defending champion Sihle Ntuli (Dragons).
After the announcements of marquee and released players, the honour of the first pick for the 2019 Premier Hockey League, from the new generation player pool, went to Mustapha Cassiem, called on by the Mapungubwe Mambas, while the first draft for the defending champions Drakensberg Dragons first pick was Suubi Mugerwa-Seawabe.
Onto the main pool the Mambas had first pick once again and gave Greg Last his place in the history books as the first main pool pick of the 2019 CTM Premier Hockey League. Other notable picks from the main pool included Julian Hykes (Addo Elephants), Ignatius Malgraff (Dragons), Robin Jones (Mambas) and Spencer Botes (Cavemen).
In the Women’s tournament Tarrin Ramsden and Sandile Bosman made their debuts at the draft tables after being appointed as head coach at the St. Lucia Lakers and the Madikwe Rangers respectively. They are joined by defending champion Marcelle Keet (Blyde River Bunters), Shaun Hulley (Orange River Rafters) and Ryan Pillay (Wineland Wings).
Also starting with the “new generation” pool, the women’s honour of first pick went to the exciting Cailyn den Bakker for the Wineland Wings, much to the disappointment of the next five coaches in line. The defending champions, the Blyde River Bunters, made Gracious Mpe their opening pick for the 2019 CTM Premier Hockey League.
As the coaches analysed their playbooks and sums that reminded you of William Smith on a Saturday morning, just without the smarties, the draft moved onto the main pool of players. In this round the drafts of Christine Seggie (Wings), Londeka Dlamini (Rangers) and Tasmin Preller (Lakers) attracted the most animated reactions when selected.
Marissa Langeni, CEO of South African Hockey, shared the following thoughts: “The CTM PHL is always an exciting event on the hockey calendar. I think the coaches have done some good hard work in planning their squads for 2019 and I think they will be happy with what they have done. We are delighted to continue our partnership with CTM as our headline sponsor of PHL for 2019. The CTM PHL has a fantastic legacy already of making sure we make top level hockey accessible to all players, and we look forward to growing this legacy again in 2019!”
The battle lines have now been drawn and the planning can begin. Who will topple the Drakensberg Dragons and the Blyde River Bunters in 2019? Will the Maropeng Cavemen win back their title? Will the Daisies and the Gladiators rock the Premier Hockey League boat. The answers to these questions and more will be revealed at the Randburg Astro when the fourth edition of the CTM PHL gets underway on July 18.