Finally putting an end to a dry spell of over 20 years, Great Britain’s recent Azlan Shah Cup final victory over Australia was heralded by many pundits as an impressive start for a team now with an eye firmly on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Yet whilst claiming the gold over in the orient three years down the line may be the long-term end goal for many of today’s current stars, there is another competition major competition on the horizon that the home nations can ill-afford to ignore.
This past April, the clock officially began counting down the final 365 days before the 2018 Commonwealth Games begin on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.
Perhaps even more so than the Azlan Shah Cup, Gold Coast 2018 will be a chance for the English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish sides to establish themselves as major players on the international stage.
This may of course, take some doing after a disappointing result at the 2016 Olympics.
Anyone betting on success for Great Britain and Ireland in Rio would have been out of pocket, with both teams being eliminated in the group stages along with Canada and host nation Brazil.
As the journey towards Gold Coast 2018 reaches its final stretch, sport betting experts such as www.freebets.uk and similar platforms are expected to pit the individual Great Britain sides as outside chances for success in next year’s competition.
Not that this necessarily means automatically counting the sides out of the running.
Back in May, England looked as confident and assured as they ever have done in going head-to-head with Australian side who have held the Azlan Shah Cup on no less than nine separate occasions.
The performance was particularly notable -and in the eyes of some pundits particularly impressive- for being the first time a number of key players had tasted international competition at this level.
As The Hockey Paper noted back in early May, Welshman Dan Kyriakides, along with five England players David Goodfield, Jonty Griffiths, Brendan Creed, James Gall and Liam Sanford all made their debuts for Great Britain, offering fans, coaches, and critics alike a first chance to see how the future of the club fared under the conditions of such a high profile competition.
For the players themselves, this was an opportunity to acclimatise themselves to senior level international hockey, and to gain the kind of first hand experience that they will undoubtedly need if they are to return home from Australia next summer with a medal.
Yet, whilst the Azlan Shah may be cause for celebration in the Great Britain camp, the victory is not necessarily a tell-tale sign of success at the Commonwealth Games.
The team have only managed to secure two bronze medals since hockey was first introduced to the Commonwealth Games back at the 1998 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If their campaign at next year’s event is to be successful then, the British home nations must surely be looking to focus all of their efforts not on Tokyo 2020, but on Gold Coast 2018, and on channelling the spirit they displayed against Australia this past May when they finally get there.