The five shortlisted players for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Rising Star of the Year award have made a huge impact in the past two or three years. While they might all be relatively new recruits to their respective national squads, all our nominees have proven themselves as important and integral members of their teams. From the steady hands in defence, the creative midfielders to the dynamic strikers, all our nominees are inspirational athletes on and off the field of play. The athletes are listed in alphabetical order.
Last year’s Rising Star Award recipient Maria Granatto of Argentina has continued on her upwards trajectory. In the 2016 season, the talented striker was a relative unknown and her tricky skills and amazing game awareness caught many opponents off-guard. Now defenders know about Granatto but that doesn’t make her any easier to contain. One of the joys of watching the game is to see Maria Granatto jink and twist her way through a packed defence, only to leave her opponents chasing shadows. Argentina have not enjoyed their most successful year in 2017 but with players like Granatto in the ranks, future trophies are sure to find their way to the South American giants of the game.
Nike Lorenz has been hailed by her captain Janne Muller-Weiland as “mature beyond her years”, as she has made her position in the German defence a secure one. Lorenz is one of a number of exceptionally gifted young players whose presence in the national senior squad signals a bright future for Germany. At both the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg and the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League in New Zealand, Lorenz was coolly controlling in defence but also proved herself devastatingly accurate on penalty corners. Lorenz was voted Young Player of the Tournament in Johannesburg.
Frederique Matla has an impressive medal haul already. She has been a crucial part of the Netherlands team that has enjoyed great success in 2017, winning the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Brussels, the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships in Amstelveen and the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League in Auckland. At just 20 years, Matla is a calm presence on the Dutch forward line, patiently and effortlessly gliding into space before linking up with team mates to create yet another flowing Oranje attack. Matla scored twice in the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League competition, both goals showing that, although she is one of the newest recruits to the world number one side, she is more than holding her own.
Laura Nunnink has been part of the Netherlands squad since 2014, when she made her debut appearance in the Champions Trophy in Mendoza, where the Netherlands picked up a bronze medal. Since then, the talented defender/midfielder has been a steady presence in the national side. In the early days of her international career, Nunnink quietly went about her job, defending efficiently and turning defence into attack with creative passing. Now she is approaching a century of caps, she has grown into a mature member of the team – a confident and strong presence who has been a vital cog in the Netherlands’ recent successes.
Xan de Waard of the Netherlands has been a Rising Star nominee on three previous occasions, testimony to the enduring quality of her performances. De Waard is a player whose contribution to the game is sometimes overlooked because she makes excellence look effortless, but in a team of hockey superstars, Xan de Waard is right there among the best of them. At only 22 years-old, she has more than 100 caps to her name – the second youngest player to achieve this for the Netherlands – and her medal cabinet already contains a World Cup and EuroHockey Championship gold medal and an Olympic silver. Her greatest qualities are her passing and her vision, but she is also uncompromising in defence and a creative midfielder.