Haantjes knows that OR will return as a fighting machine in the big league

‘Last year we had a completely different conversation’, are the first words of Rob Haantjes when he speaks to the press, after winning the championship with the Orange-Red in the Promotion Division. Yet he looks the same as last May: emotional and full of disbelief. 

Soaking wet, he entered the Oranje-Rood clubhouse. That was due to the final minutes of the duel with Push (3-2 win), in which sunny Eindhoven briefly turned into a place of disaster. Thunder, lightning and pouring rain. Circumstances in which you would rather not celebrate a championship. But although you could just about wring him out, Haantjes just kept laughing. 

He had done it. Emotional person Roosters. The Eindhoven resident was pushed forward at the end of October 2021 after coach Stefan Duyf was fired after poor results. De Brabander managed to transfer the twelfth place of the competition that competition year to Victoria, but it still went wrong in the play-outs against Tilburg. The Orange-Red relegated to the Promotion Division, but Haantjes stayed. 

‘Deflation is mentally terrible’

And with success. Oranje-Rood will return to the highest level within a year. While only six players (Kim Hendrix, Lisa Scheerlinck, Floor Hoogers, Janneke van de Venne, Vivienne Peters and Carmen Victoria) experienced the malaise of a year earlier in the current group. ‘I have so much respect for those girls’, reacts Haantjes, while his voice is shaking. ‘They have provided the basis and the foundation. That is very nice. Such an empty run just has a terrible mental impact.’

Rob Roosters. Photo: William Vernes

So hard that the team was still suffering from it in the preparation and during the start of the season. But slowly everything fell into place. “We haven’t lost anything since October 3. We then had an upward trend. It subsided again for a while, when Thirsa Kho decided to stop. We had to fill in the center-middle position and the penalty corner. You can’t just solve that. In the winter break we found our balance again. And then we discussed together that we are the best and that we should go for it.’

Haantjes turned it into a fighting machine 

After the winter, the Orange-Red won eight of its nine matches. Only against Laren (2-2) was a draw. ‘The biggest gain is that the group has learned to fight back. Coming back from difficult situations. Have confidence that they can turn things around. The second half has always been ours. And those are things that we will desperately need next season.’

Orange-Red is therefore quite resilient mentally. Much more resilient than a year earlier. So-called fight matches were actually lost by default. While the better hockey players were often on the side of Eindhoven. ‘Struggle and passion, that was missing. But we turned it into a fighting machine in a year. And coincidentally another one who can also play hockey very well. We play from our hearts. I find that special to see.’

Photo: William Vernes

But how do you stay in the big league? 

Elements that will be much needed next season in the big league. Because in an Olympic year you don’t just get (foreign) reinforcements. The team from Eindhoven must therefore mainly do it with its own strength. ‘The group is most looking forward to playing against SCHC, Amsterdam or Den Bosch. Hockey against the best. And get better at it. That’s how we found our way to the big league. We will therefore do that with a large part of this group. They laid the foundation in culture, in how you treat each other and how hard you work for each other. We have to survive the first year together.’

But Haantjes is not crazy. Know that, of course, he needs reinforcements. And does not deny that the talks are already underway. Not only with foreign reinforcements, but also with his talents, which attract interest from higher-class clubs. ‘Nothing has been finalized yet, but I want reinforcements on every line, so that we are a bit broader in our selection. Get a little more body . We will really need that soon. We’ll see what comes our way. I’ve had quite a few phone calls in the past week alone.’

In any case, he can’t wait. He’s back where he thinks they belong. At the highest level. The perfect response to that oh-so painful degradation. “I can only write my feeling in one way: pay-back time .” 


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