The 5th edition of the Raja Noora Ashikin Cup will get underway this Sunday and a record number of 15 teams, both from clubs and states have confirmed their participation in the week long tournament that will be played at the National Hockey Stadium in bukit Jalil.
The RNA Cup as it is popularly known made its debut in 2000 and was held in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and will mark a return after a five year hiatus.
The 15 teams have been placed in three groups as follows:
Group A comprises of Perak, Johor, B. Titiwangsa, Kedah and PDRM while Group B is made off Pulau Pinang, SMK Puteri Seremban, ATM, Pahang and Terengganu.
Invited team Singapore makes up Group C together with Selangor, KL Sukma, Melaka and Setia Cougar.
The group winners will advance to the semifinals accompanied by the best second placed team.
Pahang will be the team to beat as they will will have at least seven current national players while Perak and Johor are expected to give them a fight.
KL will field two teams as they have entered KL Sukma as well as B. Titiwangsa to challenge for honours.
Though the tournament used to offer prize money in the past, the absence of such incentive did not deter the teams as evident from the record number of participating teams.
"We are looking into providing grants to the winning teams instead of outright prize money, said Malaysian Hockey Confederation Deputy President Puan Sri Noorashikin Raja Abdullah.
"With so many teams in the fray it will provide our coaches a perfecty opportunity to gauge the performance of the current national players as well as be on the lookout for emerging talents."
The national womens team are expected to participate in the SEA Cup in December in Thailand. But the tournament still remains uncertain as the Asian Hockey Federation is currently monitoring the flood situation.
In addition the team will also by vying for a place in the 2012 London Olympics and have been placed in the qualifiers to be played at Kakamigahara (Japan) from 25 April to 6 May. They are grouped with Japan, Azerbaijan, Chile, Belarus and Trinidad & Tobago.