By Rod Gilmour
Japan coach Anthony Farry is aiming to get full-time status for his squad ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics; a green light for their home Games offering hope that the host nation could make quite the impact in two years’ time.
The world No 14 side have produced a set of standout performances already this year, beating high-profile sides despite being a largely amateur side.
Most of the Cherry Blossoms team work in a variety of roles for some of Japan’s top conglomerates, but Farry is hoping to bring the team together in the months leading up to the Tokyo Games.
“It is up to me to push for centralisation in the lead up to Tokyo so we give us the best possible chance to perform,” he told The Hockey Paper.
“But not only that, to create a legacy for hockey and the importance of having a home Olympics is massive.
“I want to make sure that the on-pitch stuff is looked after the responsibility of building the programme and getting people involved in taking them on the journey.”
Japan enjoyed a breakthrough summer when Farry’s side put themselves in contention to qualify from their World Cup group by beating New Zealand in the pool phase.
Japan then won the Asian Games and came out on top in the recent Four Nations tournament by beating world No 3 Australia in the final.
Farry, who joined from the Canadian men’s team last year, has tried to induct a sense of unity in a non-pressured environment off the pitch, not least with the team’s ability to ‘scare’ each other during their down time.
“It’s about enjoyment off the pitch as well,” said Farry.
“There are a handful of players who work for Coca Cola. Some will be in an office, others filling shop stores and vending machines. Then there’s another group who work for Sony in merchandising, as well as GSK and banks too.
The players, says Farry, are ‘well supported’ by their domestic clubs financially, which allows them to train.
“But leading into the Olympics it will be better for them to work as a group,” Farry added.
Japan stayed to the end of the women’s World Cup to gain more experience on the world stage.
Farry, an Australian, added: “It is important for the girls. They don’t spend much time around international players to watch and see them live, but also to build relationships with the language barrier.”
Farry is based with his family in Nagoya, with training some 40km away. But even with the Olympics two years away, he is remaining grounded.
“There is no excitement yet. There is still two years and we are all growing up. We are all short players, not strong and tough, but we are training more to get the experience and to be a better team.
Their World Cup performance certainly gave the team added impetus for their headlines at the Asian Games. And Farry points to the victory over New Zealand, the Commonwealth champions, as a significant cog in the wheel.
“To beat New Zealand, for us it was a really determined performance defensively.
“It came from them. You give them the environment where they can learn and enjoy themselves and it gets the right outcomes, it doesn’t always happen but games like against New Zealand was one of them.”
Playing the Black Sticks and Hockeyroos was also a contrast in height and style.
Farry said of his side: “They look like they are moving really quickly all the time because their legs are so little and they are going at 100 mph, like Roadrunner, as opposed to the much taller teams like the Dutch and the Australians with the fluent style across the pith.
“But their energy level is really high and they are really excited about running and just being aggressive.”