Feared by their rivals, feted by their teammates and adored by their fans, the five shortlisted players for the FIH Male Player of the Year features some shining talent from around the globe. There are talented marksmen, hot shot penalty corner specialists and flamboyant play-makers. The one thing they all have in common? They are supremely talented sports people who are operating at the top of their game.
Here are the nominations in alphabetical order by surname:
Netherlands sharp shooter and midfield dynamo Billy Bakker is one of the lynchpins of the Netherlands' midfield and one of the reasons Oranje have been so strong this year. Their sumptuous 6-1 victory at the Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final in London against Argentina was followed by a similar 4-2 win over rivals Belgium at the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships. Bakker and his team mates' victory in Amsterdam was cheered by thousands of orange-clad fans who enjoyed a consummate example of free-flowing hockey and Bakker was at the heart of every move.
Mats Grambusch has enjoyed another good year with Germany. He was leading goal scorer in the recent test matches against Great Britain; among the top goal scorers in both the EuroHockey Championships, where Germany finished fourth and also the HWL Semi-Finals in Johannesburg where his team secured second place and qualification for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018. At 25, Grambusch is coming into his prime and this year has established himself as a key player in Germany’s hunt for World Cup gold in India next year. He scored the opening goal at the HWL Final and, with that event currently underway, Grambusch is in fearsomely good form.
The next nominee is a past winner of the Rising Stars Award. Argentina's drag flick specialist Gonzalo Peillat is one of a number of Argentina players who have been at the heart of Argentina's rise up the rankings in recent years. Peillat has a trophy cabinet full of medals that includes a bronze medal from the 2014 World Cup, gold at the 2015 Pan American Championships and, of course, 2016 Olympic gold. Peillat was top scorer at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in London, where Argentina finished in silver medal position. He was also joint top scorer at the Pan American Cup, where Argentina retained their title as continental champions.
When Netherlands' Mirco Pruyser gets into his opponent's circle, goalkeepers and defenders know they are in trouble. The freely-scoring striker was top scorer as the Netherlands took gold at the 2017 EuroHockey Championships. On that occasions he scored six goals. Pruyser was also part of the Netherlands team that stormed to a 6-1 win over Argentina at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in London in June, securing the gold medal – a win that makes the Netherlands one of the favourites to lift the end of year Hockey World League Final trophy.
Belgium's Arthur van Doren is a player who has been making a huge impact on the game since he first burst onto the hockey scene in 2013. As a 17-year-old he was part of the Belgium squad that won silver at the 2013 EuroHockey Championships in Boom, Belgium, a feat the Red Lions and van Doren repeated in 2017. European silver was upgraded to Olympic silver in 2016 and in the same year van Doren was voted FIH Rising Star. The defender is in with a chance of repeating that success as he is once again a nominee in this year's Rising Star Award.
Photos by Getty Images and World Sports Pics