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The five shortlisted players for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Rising Star of the Year award have all made a huge impact within a short space of time. These are the players who have burst onto the global hockey stage and look destined to shine as supreme athletes on the pitch and inspirational role models off it. The nominated players are in alphabetical order by surname.
Thierry Brinkman was voted Best Junior Player at the Hero Men's Hockey World League Semi-Final in London, a fitting reward for a performance that saw him score three goals, including one in the final. Netherlands took gold at that event and then went on to win gold at the 2017 Rabobank EuroHockey Championships, with Brinkman again playing a major part in the success. Not only is Brinkman a natural goal scorer but he is an agile player whose passes can unlock the opposition's defences.
One moment of brilliance as he spun 360 degrees to beat the ‘keeper in a shoot-out was enough to place the Netherlands’ Jorrit Croon on the watchlist of superstars of the future. That seminal moment, against the Black Sticks in a test match in 2016, was a sign of things to come and the 19-year-old hasn’t stopped wowing since. Croon was called up for the 2016 Olympics and has been a regular in the Netherlands side ever since. Croon was part of the Dutch squad that won both the Hero Men's Hockey World League Semi-Final in London and the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam. His performances in front of a vociferous Dutch crowd was enough to earn him the Best Junior Player award as Netherlands took the gold medal.
Belgium's Arthur van Doren won last year’s FIH Rising Stars Award after a fantastic campaign with the Red Lions that saw him walk away with an Olympic silver. This year has not seen the 23-year-old’s impact on his national side diminish in any way. He is a player who is mature beyond his years, offering the Belgium team a stability in defence that allows the midfield and forward line to terrorise the opposition with their attacking skills. Van Doren played for Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the Hockey India League, an experience that he says has made him a better player. His award as Player of the Tournament when Belgium won silver at the 2017 Rabobank EuroHockey Championships speaks volumes for this player’s talent.
Germany’s Head Coach Stefan Kermas is looking to emulate the all-conquering team of 2002-2012 with the team he is gathering together. Timm Herzbruch is one of the players that Kermas has brought into the side and a silver at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg to add to the bronze from Rio 2016 is not a bad return for the attacking midfielder’s first few months with the national side. Herzbruch is a player who lights up the pitch with fast, silky, mesmerising hockey that uses every inch of the field and final passes that often leave a defence spilt apart. As he showed with his four goals in South Africa, he is certainly no slouch when it comes to finding the back of the net.
Victor Wegnez is another member of the Red Lions who has played such a part in his team’s success since joining the senior set-up. The midfielder’s performances in both the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg, where Belgium won the gold medal, and the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships, where they took silver, showed that Wegnez is truly a talent for the future. In 2016, Wegnez was captain of the Belgium Under-21 team that won silver at the Uttar Pradesh Men's Hockey Junior World Cup 2016 and it was his maturity in that role, plus his sparkling presence on the pitch that has made him an important cog in the Red Stick’s wheel of success.
All photos from Getty Images or World Sports Pics