Australian hockey star Jamie Dwyer supports fives format for Olympics
Five-time World Player of Year Dwyer insists short format - which will be trialled in HK this weekend - is vital to keep sport in Olympics
Australian hockey idol Jamie Dwyer has thrown his support behind the proposed five-a-side format for the Olympics, saying that it would provide a more entertaining spectacle on television and secure the future of the sport at the Games.
"Hockey was in danger of being kicked out of the Olympics recently and I believe the main reason is that we have too many athletes taking part. With this in mind, I think fives would be perfect. I want to make sure that hockey remains in the Olympics and if this is the way to go, why not? It will be great," said Dwyer.
The five-time World Player of the Year, who is in town for the Hong Kong Football Club Hockey 6s, which gets underway today with an 11-a-side exhibition game, added: "I still want 11-a-side to be the main game, but like in cricket where you have the tests, 50 overs and Twenty20, there is room for other formats too in hockey. Fives will be better for entertainment. There will be more goals and more action, making it a better spectacle for television."
The HKFC 6s will play a huge role in deciding if fives is viable, with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) using the tournament to trial the format with some of the world's best players who have gathered for this week's competition. Four teams - Earth, Air, Fire and Water - led by leading internationals will take part in the International Fives tomorrow and Saturday.
The FIH has also proposed the fives format for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing next year.
Patrick Watts, chairman of the HKFC 6s organising committee, said: "We are honoured to have been asked to trial the format for FIH. It is a great opportunity for us to introduce fives to the hockey community in Hong Kong and Asia, particularly ahead of the Youth Olympic Games next year."
Hockey was almost booted out of the Olympics last month by the International Olympic Committee. It was among five sports considered for removal from the programme in 2020, but escaped when wrestling was eventually shown the door. The narrow shave was underlined by the fact that hockey, wrestling and modern pentathlon were in the final round of voting after canoeing and taekwondo survived the early rounds.
"I was shocked to hear that hockey was one of the sports on the brink of losing its Olympic status," Dwyer said. "It was even more amazing considering that at last year's Olympic Games in London, every game was packed with spectators and the fans loved it.
"But this is all about television and a smaller format where the five best players from each country will be on show will definitely be more entertaining for the fans and be good for TV," added Dwyer, who represented Australia at the last three Olympic Games, leading the nation to a gold medal in Athens in 2004 and bronze in Beijing and London.
The four teams in the International Fives will play a round-robin competition. Each team are allowed four outfielders and a goalkeeper and will play three 10-minute periods with rolling substitutions permitted. A goal can be scored from anywhere on the field, so this will include own goals. The pitch will be roughly half the size of a normal ground with boards all around it and there will be no circles or D's. The other main difference from the traditional game is that there will be no penalty corners.
"The HKFC 6s is a great setting to give the fives format a trial run," said FIH sport director David Luckes. "With the calibre of players at the Hong Kong tournament, we felt this was the perfect opportunity to get meaningful feedback before the 2014 Youth Olympic Games."