Some call him the most recognisable beard in South African hockey, to others he is known as Jet. South African men’s indoor and outdoor player, Jethro Eustice, took some time to chat to us about working, playing and growing his beard.
Hi Jethro, where are you playing at the moment?
Hi guys, I am currently in Durban, playing for UKZN mens 1st Team. But just got back from the Cape Summer Series against Holland and Belgium. It was an amazing experience.
What’s your take on club hockey in SA at the moment?
Club Hockey is definitely in a stagnant place at the moment with Varsity Sports, USSA and the Elite Club Challenge, the only serious club competitions in SA at the moment, at that is quite scary. We need to look bigger and better. More like a tiered national league. Similar to that of the England Hockey League. They have a premier league, and three conference leagues below it. I think this all can be done, without much trouble. Then for fixtures to be run over the weekend, we try make them centralized fixtures for clubs organize the full weekend of play. This obviously needs to be broken up a little better but the concept could be quite simple.
You are a degreed hockey player, how difficult is it to balance a corporate career and top level hockey?
I have currently finished my BComm Honours in Information Systems and Technology. But at this stage I am still a full-time hockey player and part-time worker. I have a few good tournaments left in my legs so as long as I stay fit and keep my performance viable for selection, then I will play hockey.
Your beard spent some time playing abroad, what do foreign leagues get right that we don’t?
My beard haha, I tend to grow the beard only when the crowds need a bit of talking point to the way I play. Back to the question, the Foreign leagues are structured, organized and just down right ready for a hockey season. The people that are involved in the leagues work hard to make it work, even if they are not getting paid to do so. Which is very similar to what we have, a lot of people being volunteers for the league and sport they love. So the question is why can’t it work in SA. We need a strong SAHA, making the best calls for hockey in the country. Club Hockey is the only way we can make hockey better.
Franchise leagues like PHL, HIL, MHL and EHL, have all the right sponsorship programs that make it work. But what I think we need is the clubs to build up the profile of hockey in SA and make the business kept in the clubs and club hockey.
You have just closed off an international summer challenge, how was it to play the best in the world?
Playing Holland and the current Olympic Silver medalists, in Belgium, was an incredible experience. Both teams are starting their next 4 year cycle towards 2020, and to see the potential these nations have is something we just don’t experience enough of. These summer series tournaments are vital for us, as SA national teams. We improve so much that playing the like of Holland and Belgium in an international series makes us truly privileged and exciting at the same time. We had a lot of experienced players and some exciting new talent coming through, this makes our next 4 year cycle look very new and the potential of the SA men’s team, which seems to be growing every year, incredible positive.
Lots of youngsters in the SA side, is the future bright?
The Future in SA hockey, for me has always been bright. We have a lot talent every year coming through. And what proves that is the School hockey that is played throughout the country. We have introduced a couple of U19 players into the SA squad at the moment and they have shown real promise. The good thing is they are fearless and committed, which I see lack in the U21 age group and older. But I have to say we have always been a good position with younger players, and this is what excites me. The potential is there SA hockey need to find how to use it. And push the standard to the next level.
If there’s one thing you can do for club hockey, what would it be?
Club hockey needs to be expressed and shown to the entire country, rather than just in the areas they are being played. So I would like to help get club hockey represented in a form of a website and shown through that platform for everyone throughout the country, to notice it. Similar to that of Varsity Sports, but without TV for now. Maybe a later challenge.
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