EL teen on a hockey high

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Zimkitha makes Premier League history

FIFTEEN-year-old Zimkitha “Pienky” Smayile made history when she became the youngest-ever player in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) after signing for the Orange River Rafters.

And the Grade 10 Hudson Park High pupil went one better, when she and her team won the second PHL title on Tuesday, beating Private Property St Lucia Lakers 4-3 on penalties after a normal time goalless draw.

The skilful midfielder-come- attacker got the call-up on November 21, days before the start of the professional hockey showpiece tournament held at the Randburg Astro in Johannesburg.

RECORD-BREAKER: Zimkitha ‘Pienky’ Smayile, in red, is seen playing for Hudson Park High. The 15-year-old made the massive leap to playing and winning the Premier Hockey League with the Orange River Rafters this week as the youngest-ever player Picture: SUPPLIED

“I got the call four days before the start of the PHL. I was very excited and proud of myself, but I was also nervous to play against national team players,” said the joyful teen.

There are six top national players – or marquee players – in each team and then the coach of the team gets to choose the rest of their players in a draft-pick process similar to the American sports leagues like the NBA and NFL. The marquee stars are chosen by the national high performance panel at the South African Hockey Association to promote a level playing field. Zimkitha had barely finished her final Grade 10 exams when she had to refocus her mind for a test of a different kind. She said her teammates had, however, made her feel welcome.

“They don’t treat me differently. They guide and help me on the field because they can see that I’m not confident yet and that I still need to adapt to that level of hockey,” the Parkside Hockey Club player said.

It is, however, not her first taste of national hockey, as she has represented the SA U16 hockey team last year and this year.

Her coach at both Parkside and Hudson Park, Jerry Snyman, believes this is just the start of great things for the talented youngster.

“Pienky is a very hard-working midfielder with lots of skill and great ability to attack. She works very hard [off the field] and she will definitely improve; she is very talented,” Snyman said.

“I’ve learnt to back myself more and that I’m never too good to learn new things from different coaches and players. I have also gained more confidence and how to build myself as a player going forward,” Zimkitha said.

The girl from Vergenoeg said that her favourite teammate is Zimasa Dunywa (Zimmy) and said that she looked up to Dirkie Chamberlain, also a Rafters player, as “she played fantastic hockey and she’s someone to look up to”.

Zimkitha was joined in the Orange River Rafters team by fellow-East Londoners, Luché Klaasen and Francisca Darkoh.

“Pienky”, as she is affectionately known, is truly one to watch for the future.

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