WThis weekend saw Wales men return home from a successful 3 Nations Invitational tournament campaign against USA and Brazil played at Benalmádena Hockey Club in Malaga.
Wales made a slow start to the tournament, losing their opening game 3-1 against USA and only managed a 4-4 draw versus Brazil despite a hat-trick from forward Joe Naughalty.
A strong defensive performance in Game 3 was the key to an impressive 4-0 win over USA and a 3-1 win over Brazil in their final match was enough for Wales to clinch top spot in the 3 team round robin tournament.
Head Coach, Zak Jones shared his reflections on a very positive and productive week:
“The week in Malaga has been a very productive, positive and enjoyable one. The week afforded us valuable, quality time together in a tournament situation, as well as allowing us to work on the finer details of certain aspects of our play. With a number of experienced senior players missing for part or all of the camp, the trip provided us with the opportunity to continue to develop both the depth and breadth of the squad.
I was really pleased with many of the attacking aspects of our game and while it took us a couple of games to get up-to-speed with the defensive elements, our performances in the last couple of games clearly demonstrated that we are getting back to where we would like to be.”
Although pleased with having won the tournament, Jones insists the focus of the trip was never really about the results but about the squad’s own performances and standards. The trip helped provide clarity around areas of improvement needed, ahead of the upcoming Hockey Series this April.
Reflecting on a week of learning Co-captain, Luke Hawker reminded us the squad hadn’t played in a competitive fixture since the Open Series in Croatia last year:
“This was a valuable week for us, providing an opportunity to kick-start a busy 2019. Understandably, it took us a while to regain the standards that we set ourselves throughout 2018 having not played a competitive fixture since Open Series in Croatia. The technical and tactical progress made, when facing various challenges presented by USA and Brazil, was pleasing and perhaps reflected on the scoreboard as the week progressed. While improving, we still have plenty of areas in which we can develop, these will serve to provide us with a clear focus throughout training camps as we look ahead to Malaysia. A special congratulations also to Owain Dolan-Gray on receiving his 100th cap.”
Another highlight of the week saw Owain Dolan-Gray earn his 100th cap during the team’s victory against USA, making him the 14th man to reach a century of caps for Wales!
An elated Dolan-Gray who first represented Wales against Malaysia in 2009, told us:
“It’s an absolute honour to have represented my country for a decade. I have a lot of proud moments which I share with the current and some of my older team mates. I’m really pleased we won the game and performed closer to our own standards.”
Jones spoke highly of Dolan-Gray, commenting on both this achievement and of his character as a person and player:
“I am delighted for Owain. He has been a fantastic servant to the senior men’s squad both on and off the pitch for a number of years. He should be incredibly proud of his achievement and thoroughly deserves any accolades that come his way. He is an immensely likeable, honest and selfless player who’s work rate, passion and commitment are second to none. It is a credit to him that he continues to improve and develop as a player and I would not be surprised to see him putting in top class international performances for Wales for many more years to come.”
The men will compete in the Hockey Series Finals in Malaysia between 26th April – 4th May 2019.