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SA hockey captain and other stars up for sale
- Updated: October 26, 2012
By Mark Etheridge
Austin Smith, Team South Africa’s 2012 Olympic Games men’s hockey captain, along with seven other top SA players, will be up for auction next month ahead of the Hockey India League early next year.
The eight will join a legion of hockey’s leading lights for the six-franchise event that will run from 5 January to 3 February, 2013. Competition format will be very similar to the hugely popular Indian Premier League limited-overs cricket competition.
Like that event, next month will see the world’s top hockey exponents being auctioned off to the six franchises and there will be 33 matches in total.
Other South African players who have signed up for hopeful purchase are Justin Reid-Ross, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Thornton McDade, Lloyd Madsen, Rhett Halkett, Rassie Pieterse and Under-21 youngster Clinton Panther.
Explained Smith, who normally plies his trade for the Den Bosch club in the Hoofklasse League in Holland. “There’ll be 14 Indian players and 10 foreigners in each team and the players all get auctioned off. I believe it will be live on ESPN TV channel along with the matches so it’s pretty exciting stuff.
“The HIL, opposed to the series which was launched a year ago called the World Series Hockey, is sanctioned by the FIH, hence the huge interest among foreign players,” he told Road to Rio 2016.
“I expect the WSH will cease to exist, again similar to what happened when a rival cricket body tried to launch their own version of the IPL, it just didn’t work.”
Smith has 103 international caps and his participation was welcomed by Hockey India secretary-general and HIL chairman Narinder Batra. “We are pleased that creative midfielder Smith, who has led the national team in 56 matches and was nominated to be a part of the FIH World All-Star team in 2009, is among those from South Africa who are eager to showcase their talents in the Hockey India League.”
Like the rest of his international counterparts, 27-year-old Smith is relishing the prospect of the new competition. “I’m excited about the opportunity to learn new things and meet new players from around the world. I already play with guys from four different nationalities at my club so I’m used to it but playing in another new environment where hockey is even close to the No1 sport in the country excites me.
“I think it is also good for us as South African players who are not always exposed to the latest trends in hockey to keep up to speed with where the game is going. Too often we arrive at a major tournament and experience it all for the first time, now we have a chance to take back what we are learnt and implement it in our own way and in our own schedule.”
In cricket-mad India, large sums of money were traded for the swashbuckling exponents of the Twenty20 format. New Zealander Brendon McCullum fetched the highest price of $900,000 in the 2012 IPL cricket auction.
So what does Smith expect the globe’s astroturf wizards to go for. “Whoa, I really don’t have much idea but would think it would range somewhere between $50,000 and $80,000 ÔÇô but that’s a complete guess.”
Smith expects Australian Jamie Dwyer, a five-time world player-of-the-year winner to fetch the highest price. “He’s an ambassador for the competition and I would imagine he would be in demand by all the franchises.”
Should Smith be snapped up by one of the six franchises he only expects to take home 55% of his actual bid price, due to tax, having to be released by his club as well as agent’s fees but he’s currently in discussion with his foreign club to reach common ground and mutual satisfaction.