Hockey: Hayward excited to join Indian league

By Peter White


Tauranga's Andy Hayward is one of nine Black Sticks players who have signed up for an exciting new men's hockey league in India.

The competition follows the Indian Cricket IPL model and will provide strong competition and a new source of income for the world's best hockey players.

The organisers of the new Hockey India League (HIL) will hold a live auction tomorrow, when the six city-based franchises will bid on approximately 100 international players.

Hayward sees the opportunity to play in India as a massive boost to his international following and hopefully his bank balance.

"I'm not sure what the value will be for us at the auction but certainly I wouldn't think it will be anywhere near what the cricketers earn," Hayward said.

"If you don't play professionally overseas then you don't earn much money here, so it will certainly help. Hopefully in five to 10 years the league will be established and could financially run the players for the year."

The other aspect Hayward is keenly looking forward to is the chance to play fulltime against the best players in the world.

"It will be fantastic to test yourself against the best players day in, day out. With each team having up to eight foreign players it will be a high standard and each day you commit to playing against the best, the more you get out of it.

"The Indians have their own distinctive style of playing and some of the best history in the game. It will be a big challenge playing against them."

Hayward is regarded as one of the premier drag flick goalscorers in world hockey, which is why he was one of the players targeted by the new HIL organisers.

"I guess my ability to score with the drag flick is important, like the big six hitters are in demand in the cricket. Hopefully that will help me out a bit and put me high on their radar."

Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins (260 caps), veteran Phil Burrows, goalkeeper Hamish McGregor, midfielder Shea McAleese, centre-half Steve Edwards, strikers Simon Child and Hugo Inglis and forward Nick Wilson are the other Black Sticks players to feature in the auction.

Run by Hockey India and sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), the competition will be held from January 5 to February 3 and will be a home-and-away format, culminating in multi header playoffs.

ESPN Star Sports has signed as the official global broadcast partner for five years.

Black Sticks vice-captain McAleese says the upcoming auction will highlight where the players are viewed on the international stage and their worth to the teams and franchises.

"As a player, it would mean a lot to get picked up by a franchise as I would be able to commit to being a professional athlete without having to worry all the time about expenses,' McAleese said.

Each franchise will have 24 players, which will include 10 foreign and 14 Indian players.

Eleven Australians have signed up to the auction, including Jaime Dwyer and four Australian co-captains. Other players to sign up include South African captain Austin Smith and German's Olympic gold medallists Moritz Fuerste, Oliver Korn and Oskar Deecke.

Hockey New Zealand high performance manager Toni Cumpston says it is encouraging nine players have put their names forward.

"It is fantastic for our players to get the opportunity to make some good money from this league.

"It is tough for athletes to make a living in our sport, but the development of the HIL is a big step forward for the sport and Hockey New Zealand is right behind this league," Cumpston said. "The best players in the world have put up their hand, so the six teams will be competitive and that coupled with the passion of the Indian crowd will make for a great spectacle."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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