Like Cédric Charlier, Félix Denayer and John-John Dohmen, he was preparing to play at the age of 33 for his fourth Olympic Games. Certainly, Thomas Briels will be on the trip to Japan. But as a reservist (with Loïc Van Doren and Augustin Meurmans), and after giving up his captain’s armband to Félix Denayer. A form of public degradation of modern times, both understandable given the level of competition reached by the Red Lions, and of course a little sad if we measure the commitment of the striker with the right bicep crossed by the Olympic rings. ..
“Mentally difficult to take”
“It is of course a great disappointment, but it is the law of high level sport! », Sighs Thomas Briels, who has 352 caps in the Red Lions. “Shane had the good taste to tell me his decision last week, so I had time to digest it a little and think about it a lot, especially in relation to this role of captain that I thought I had. assimilated, on and off the pitch. I know Shane couldn’t have been easy, and the idea that prevails today in the team is to grab Olympic gold and bring it back to him first and foremost, compared to all the work he has done. accomplished with us! I will experience it from the stands, and it will be mentally difficult to take, but that’s how it is. I’m going to stay positive and try to be as fit as possible, even if I don’t think for a moment of going on the field during these Games, because my hope is certainly not to see one of my team-mates get injured: the 16 guys who have been selected all deserve to be there! In fact, I will undoubtedly take up the biggest challenge of my career in Tokyo, after 15 years with the Red Lions… ”
“A decision taken with my staff”
Faithful to his outspokenness and his straightforwardness, Shane McLeod explained with great frankness what had led him to make this decision that he did not take alone: “This selection process for the Olympics was launched long before the Euro, ”begins by specifying the coach of the Red Lions who will hand over the torch to his current Dutch assistant, Michel van den Heuvel, after Tokyo. “I always try to make the right decisions by including the right reasons. And this time, I got my staff involved because I wanted to continue to see the interest of the group, without letting myself be influenced by more personal or emotional contingencies. Suddenly, we had a lot of discussions that we tried to be as objective as possible. “
“Bring together the best performing team”
By taking care to match what each player brings to the needs of the team, McLeod and his close guard have thus defined the profile of the striker (six in number at the Euro!) He was going to. have to resolve to put in reserve … “Our role is to define the balance to bring together the most efficient team”, completes the Q1 of the Red Lions. “And to give you concrete examples, we have thus been able to observe according to our analysis, Cédric (Charlier) or Flo (Van Aubel) were more efficient in the circle. Or the same two in addition to Tom (Boon) scored more regularly in the 9 meters than Thomas. Or that even if he is very good at putting pressure on the opponent, Nico (De Kerpel) or Sébastien (Dockier) do it very well too. “
An analysis both sharp and ruthless, comparable to those which shaped the success of the Red Lions, more than ever eager to inhabit the top of world hockey. Even if it means having to sting where it hurts.
“Thomas has always put the collective before him”
Consequently, it is therefore Félix Denayer who will take on the role of captain; a mission that he has already successfully fulfilled on other occasions. “It’s a little weird because ‘Tomatje’ is a mate! He said. “For the job itself, I was vice-captain, so that doesn’t change much, except the pride in wearing the armband. Other players could also have fulfilled this mission. Coming back to Thomas, of course he told me about his disappointment, before telling me that he would do whatever it takes for the team. I find the way in which he always puts the collective before his personal interests impressive. He always acted like that. “