When the Malaysian Hockey League commences on Saturday, forrner national skipper S. Kuhan will earn the distinction of being the longest serving player as he made his debut for Yayasan Negeri Sembilan in 1992.And the Sapura player is well aware of the pitfalls that face his team in the MHL this season as Sapura have not made any significant signings to pose a serious challenge to the big two - KL Hockey Club and Tenaga Nasional Berhad.
Still Kuhan is optimistic that Sapura can hold its own and make the semi finals of the MHL that will see the discontinuance of the quarterfinal stages for the first time since the MHL commenced in 1987.
"It will be a tight league as every point matters and the teams have been preparing well. Personally I will only play in batches as I am not physically fit due to my work commitments," said Kuhan.
"The team has been shaping up well though and from the friendlies we played I noticed a high level of motivation from the players with even the senior players looking determined to deliver something this time around."
Sapura will welcome back the services of Jivan Mohan who skipped the MHL to undergo training as a Police Inspector last year. And Jivan will combine in midfield with his elder brother Jiwa Mohan who used to shuttle between Perh and Kuala Lumpur for a counple of seasons but is now back in Malaysia for good.
However Sapura are on tenterhooks pertaining to the situation of two players, Mohd Rodhanizan Mat Radzi and Robert Alacantara who have been provisionally suspended by the MHC for playing in the Indian Premier League last March without permission from the national body.
In addition Sapura are looking at hiring penalty corner ace Mohammad Imran from Pakistan to beef up their defence as well as gain the most from penalty corner situations.
Sapura did not have any foreign players in their squad last season. It was in the previous season that they had Rehan Butt who helped them qualify for the final.
"We hope that Imran will be able to join us for the league as he is extremely good in penalty corner situations and plays his role as a defender effectively," added Kuhan.
Besides players issues, Sapura have also parted ways with coach I. Vikneswaran and are currently being handled, albeit in a consultant role, by former national coach Stephen van Huizen.
"We are looking to secure a coach but its always difficult as most of them are already attached. Perhaps if former national coach Paul Lissek is free we might ask him to help out as he and Stephen work well together," added Kuhan.
"But I have yet to speak to him and this is still on planning stage yet."