By Sophie Penney
One of the world’s best drag flickers has told The Hockey Paper that he wants face masks to be made mandatory at PCs but disagrees with other suggested changes.
Matt Guise-Brown flicks the ball at around 75 miles per hour. His hat-trick of drag flicks in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final secured South Africa a place in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and last season he finished as top goal scorer from PCs in the Premier Division, his brace of licks winning Hampstead & Westminster the play-off final.
The 28-year-old says that it is important to put the right precautions in place to limit the danger from PCs, where currently face masks are only ‘recommended’. “Making face masks in penalty corners obligatory makes sense,” said Guise-Brown. “I fully agree with that. For safety purposes really. Gloves and knee pads can be quite important but face masks are definitely most important as a precaution.”
The FIH explained that it is not currently considering changing the rule because equipment might not be available in certain countries, therefore the accessibility of the sport would be adversely affected. However they point out that national associations can apply to make slight changes to rules if they deem them necessary.
Guise-Brown has been training his PC skills since he was a young boy growing up on the grounds of the school where his father taught in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, with the hockey pitch as his back garden. As a teenager and at university he used to flick for an hour a day most days.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the South African international is not in favour of suggestions by our readers that the height of drag flicks should be limited in line with regulations on hits at penalty corners.
“I’d be a little bit upset if they did away with it,” said Guise-Brown. “I mean it is quite dangerous the whole nature of it but there’s lots of precautions that are taken.”
Aside from trying to secure a place in South Africa’s squad for the Tokyo Olympics this summer where he could play four of his HWHC teammates in their opening match against Great Britain, Guise-Brown is also a coach, working as a PE teacher at St Anthony’s boys preparatory school in North London.
Given this experience does he agree with John Shaw, two-time Olympian and leading coach at his former club Southgate HC, who told the Hockey Paper that there should be a minimum age restriction on reverse stick hits because juniors have little control over the shot?
“I think you just end up limiting the juniors if you put in a minimum age,” said Guise-Brown. “There’s always going to be dangerous elements to it but at the same time if you teach a 13-year-old how to hit a backhand they’re not going to have that much more control of it than they would have if they had learnt it a few years earlier, and they’d possibly be able to hit it harder so it might even be more dangerous with just as little control.”