Canary Mallett sings Bermuda’s praises
Taryn Mallett has faced some of the best field hockey players in the world and says that the sport in Bermuda has a bright future.
Mallett is a former South Africa Under-21 captain, who played in the Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach, Germany, five years ago. She is working for Deloitte on a short-term contract and is playing for Canaries on the island has been “pleasantly surprised” by the standard of the Bermudian game as well as the facilities.
“I left all my hockey kit back home,” Mallett said. “I was shocked there was hockey here. I thought I'd learn sailing or something, but it's really nice! In my first week here, one of our manager's wives plays in our hockey team and said they were looking for players. I thought I would just try it out, just to meet people. I thought it would be tough to meet people, but the island is so friendly and hockey has been the best way to meet people. Everyone's friendly, there's good sportsmanship; it's been great.”
Mallett reserved special praise for the young players in Bermuda.
“[The standard has] been a lot better than I thought it would be,” she said. “When they said hockey, I was like, ‘small island' and I didn't think there would be many players to draw from, but I've been pleasantly surprised, especially by the youth here. They are a lot stronger than the youth I've seen around the world, but I think it's because they get to play with adults every weekend, and also against men.
“When I was a youth, I was never playing men and you can see it in the way they play. Compared to other players around the world and the youth in South Africa, they're very strong and they hold their own on the ball.
“You have to be fearless if you want to play the men. I'm even nervous playing the men and these younger kids are running after them and getting involved and tackling, so that's been the most encouraging thing to see here. I think they would do really well around the world.
“I've been very, very impressed with Alivia [Venning] of the Ravens. She's very solid on the ball. Her stick work is brilliant. There's a lot of top-quality women here who hold their own against the men. I would love to see the national team play! The two Ravens girls are brilliant [Jess Hollis and Juliette Ferrari-McComb].
“We played Budgies last weekend and they have some really good players. You can see they really play well together, they move the ball well and know where their players are going to be, so it's been very impressive.”
High praise indeed, especially coming from someone who has played against superstars of the global game, including María Granatto, the Argentina forward who has won the past two Rising Star of the Year awards, given by the International Hockey Federation for the world's best young player. She has also played against Florencia Habif, the Argentina defender who won the Rising Star prize in 2014, and Marloes Keetels, who captained the Netherlands to the European Championship gold medal last summer.
“The Junior World Cup was a great experience and that was like our feeder into the national women's team,” Mallett said. “It's quite nice to get that platform to play your own age group because a lot of the time, with the national women you are playing players a lot older than you when you are 20, 21, so it's a really nice stepping stone to get into the national sides. To play against the top players in the world who are your age was awesome.
“I captained against the Dutch, the Australians, there's a lot of them now who are playing for their national women's sides, which is great for them. I would've loved to have done that, but it's hard career-wise back home, you can't train and keep up that level of hockey.
“The most amazing player I played against was Maria Verschoor [the Netherlands forward]. We played against her in juniors and marking her was out of this world. You couldn't find her, she was brilliant. It's been amazing seeing her do well on the international stage.”
Mallett described the pitch at the National Sports Centre as “brilliant” and thinks the sky is the limit for the sport in Bermuda.
“I have been so surprised here by the standard and the facilities,” she said. “This is probably one of the best astros I've played on. The camaraderie between the players. Everyone fights hard on the field, but afterwards, they're like, ‘it's really nice to meet you, where are you from?' I've even had a few chats on the field while we are playing, so that's been amazing.
“The facility is brilliant. Teams would be more than happy to play here. The young players, what they're doing is brilliant, just getting involved in adult leagues and playing the men.
“I know a lot of South African club sides would consider coming here and they would give a lot of those sides a run for their money. Fitness is the biggest thing and I know in South Africa that's something we try and work on. We're not really that well funded, which sounds like here, but you can always control your fitness, which is half the problem. If you get tired then you can't do your stick work.
“I hope they continue to build hockey here because it can go far.”