Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Hockey: Samoa's Strickland a true veteran

Samoa's reserve goalkeeper Louis Strickland is 59 and still playing international hockey. Photo / APN
Samoa's reserve goalkeeper Louis Strickland is 59 and still playing international hockey. Photo / APN

When thumbing through the media pack at the Oceania Cup this week, one date of birth jumps out at you: 27/02/1954.

It belongs to that of Samoa's reserve goalkeeper Louis Strickland, who at 59 is still playing international hockey.

Samoa are the definition of a sporting minnow when it comes to hockey given their ranking of 72 of 75 international teams, and they were given a stark reminder of the challenges they face this week.

They opened the four-team Oceania Cup in Stratford with a 32-0 loss to world No 2 Australia on Wednesday and went down 4-1 to Papua New Guinea on Thursday.

Strickland, who first played hockey in the 1970s, was yet to get on the turf at the TET MultiSports Centre, with Moira Lealo being employed in goal, but said he wanted a chance to play during the weekend.

Samoa were due to round out pool play against New Zealand this afternoon (sat) and they will likely meet PNG again tomorrow in the tournament's playoff for third and fourth.

Strickland's attendance at the tournament is remarkable given his age.

The veteran was involved with the national side during the 1980s but when the team fell off the international radar he turned his focus to playing squash.

When Samoa returned to international hockey around 2007, Strickland was recruited by a friend to be the treasurer of the Samoa Hockey Federation, which led to his return to playing.

Strickland was also probably a useful man to pick up as the treasurer given he is a senior finance officer for Polynesian Airlines, a company he has worked for since 1974.

Normally a defender for his club side, Scouts, Strickland has been forced in to goal by a lack of keepers in Samoa.

"Because when we started, we didn't have masks, we didn't have full goalie's gear,'' Strickland said.

"And I said 'okay, give it to me'.''

Age is no barrier for keeping fit either.

"If I've got nothing to do, I play squash,'' he said. "I have my mountain-bike. I do my riding mostly on Sunday, between two and four, when the sun's very hot.''

Hockey is a minor sport in Samoa and Strickland said they recently celebrated their 1000th registered player in the country _ they only boasted 400 a few years back.

Playing in this week's tournament has been a tough ask for the Pacific Island teams given Australia and New Zealand are much stronger, and you could question whether it serves their development to be flogged by 20 or 30 goals.

"It's very hard to play on a grass field in Samoa then come and play on AstroTurf with only three or four days to practice then try and challenge these teams,'' Strickland said.

"We want to learn as much as we can. We brought a lot of young players so we can build them up for the future.''


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