RAF Hockey Tour Singapore and Malaysia 2015
Summer 2015 saw the men’s and women’s RAF Hockey teams depart on an epic adventure from London Heathrow to Dubai and then onto Singapore.
Flying Officer Becks Causer and SAC Beth Whitaker from RAF Benson would be joining the women’s team for their first hockey tour with the RAF.
Upon arrival in Singapore it was evident the climate was going to make hockey extremely difficult. It was over 30 degrees and combined with 80% humidity, just sitting outside worked up a sweat, let alone playing 60 minutes of hockey. The first thing on the agenda was some acclimatisation training, prior to our first match on day two. The ladies were up against a strong team for our first game; a predominantly expat side who were considerably better acclimatised than we were. Not only were we playing in the blazing heat of the mid-afternoon but the pitch was also of a questionable standard. Not to make too many excuses, we lost the first match 3-1 against a strong team, yes, but it was the heat that beat us in this match although FO Causer did score the goal for the RAF. After the game, we were hosted by the team in the Singapore Cricket Club House. The club is situated in the centre of Singapore where it costs £1000 a year just to be a member. A civilised meal and presentation ceremony soon turned into a good social in the sports bar with the odd G&T or Sambuca shot thrown in.
Our second game was against the Singapore Barbarians; a team which included some of the best hockey players from around Singapore. This game took place on an awesome pitch so it was inevitably going to be a better game. Both teams began with a minute’s round of applause to honour the memory of Cpl Brent McCarthy, a budding hockey player who sadly lost his life in Afghanistan in 2012. Still fighting against the heat and with a strong opposition, it was no surprise that our relatively junior squad lost 8-1. FO Causer again, scoring the only goal for the RAF side. However, many valuable lessons were taken away by the team and we could feel ourselves slowly acclimatising.
With only two fixtures planned, we left the delights of Singapore to head to Malaysia and our first stop was Penang. Our next opposition was the University of Penang. Their team was comprised of local girls and instantly the cultural difference was evident. They all played in head scarves and full length trousers (in the heat!!!) and stopped the game half way through to praythis was an experience in itself. Despite these interruptions, the RAF girls really pulled together in this game; we battled hard and were showing real signs of improvement, going on to a welldeserved victory of 3-2.
Having spent 4 enjoyable days in Penang it was time to travel south to our third destination- Lamut. Here we had no matches planned so we took the opportunity to carry out some Force Development, conducted by ATI Sgt Dan Wallis. This involved team games, sports psychology, individual tasks and team conversations, which everyone agreed really helped with team cohesion and we learnt some valuable lessons.
Kuala Lumpur was to be the final destination of the tour. We had two test matches planned against the Kuala Lumpur university side. Both games were played in the Bukit Jalil National Hockey Stadium of Malaysia which seats 10,000 people. It was an incredible location to play in and a fantastic experience for everyone on tour; however, the walled stadium meant they were the hottest and most humid games played so far. The girls’ team played both matches with a different mentality to the previous games; it was much more positive and it was the best they had played all tour. There was a noticeable difference in everyone on the pitch and it made the games very enjoyable to play. Despite this, the opposition was again superior with some of their players involved in the 2014 Commonwealth Games side; both games were lost 4-0 and 5-2. It was encouraging to end with games that were played to such a high standard and so positive.
The tour ended with a formal awards evening in the hotel and a fantastic meal in the Kuala Lumpur 360 revolving tower. Both Benson players picked up awards; Causer for being ‘top goal scorer’ and Whitaker for ‘most improved player’.
To sum up, the tour was incredible. It was a success for all players who went out and a real opportunity to develop and improve as a squad for next season and the 2016 Inter-Services campaign.
Although there is currently not a Hockey club at RAF Benson; Oxford Hawkes and Wallingford are always looking for new players. Training for the RAF will begin again next season: for more information look on the RAF Hockey association website or contact FO Causer on 95261 7428.