Lifetime Dragon Van Doren hoping to create best memory yet at FINAL4

© Frank Uijlenbroek

For Arthur van Doren, hosting the EHL FINAL4 in Brasschaat will be his best moment yet in a lifetime of memories with KHC Dragons for the hugely talented sweeper.

He joined the club aged just five, rising through the club’s youth system along with his younger brother Loic to become part of one of the Euro Hockey League’s most famous teams.

Indeed, despite being aged just 22, van Doren has played some part in every one of Dragons seven seasons in the EHL, debuting in 2011 and winning two bronze medals and a silver in 2013.

With his immense ability to read the game and perfectly timed tackles, he stood out from an early age. He says Dragons has been a massive part of his personal success, helping to make him the player he is, a star that was named the FIH’s Rising Star for 2016.

“I love this beautiful hockey club!” he says. “It is a club with great ambition and pride with an amazing atmosphere around the pitch during games which makes playing so much more fun. I am very proud to have contributed to the club’s rich history.”

The next phase in adding to that history comes this weekend when Dragons meet Herakles, hoping to make it three Belgian titles in a row.

After that, the focus goes singularly on the FINAL4 when they will play Rot-Weiss Köln on June 3 in the semi-final. Knowing his club would be hosting the FINAL4, van Doren says, gave Dragons a “big stimulus” to succeed at the KO16 in Eindhoven.

“We played an EHL ROUND1 at home a few years back in front of an amazing home crowd so we know what an advantage it can bring. We knew it could be something special playing the FINAL4 in front of our D-side and obviously did not want to miss out on that opportunity!”

In Eindhoven, Dragons beat the Racing Clubs of Bruxelles and France to earn their FINAL4 place. The battle of Belgium was tough one, edging out their rivals 2-1, before easing by the French champions 5-1.

“We played Racing Club de Bruxelles two weeks before the EHL in the Belgian league so it was a weird feeling playing them shortly after that again in the EHL.

“We always play close games and hard fought battles against. We didn't display our best and most fluent hockey but controlled the game fairly well and got away with the victory in the end.

“Against Racing club de France we played a solid game, did not give a lot of chances away. We were very focussed on reaching that FINAL4 and obviously very happy we did.”

It puts van Doren and Dragons in line to add yet more honours to what has already been an incredible year with two more potential trophies on the line in the next few weeks.

“2016 has been a very successful year in my career. The Olympic silver medal in Rio clearly was a highlight. I've been fortunate to win some individual trophies as well, winning the golden stick in Belgium and the FIH Rising star of the year.

“A big part of that individual success goes to my teammates of course. We still have four games left. We will try everything to make it four victories!

“In the EHL, Rot-Weiss Köln is a very talented team with some world class players. It will be a tough battle, one we are very much looking forward to.

“We are expecting a big D-side crowd to scream us to victory and can't wait to play. It would be awesome to take the EHL title in front of the home crowd. It won't be easy but you have to set goals high!”

And, after a lifetime of memories and highlights with Dragons, van Doren says that winning in front of a home crowd could be the biggest of the lot!

“It’s difficult to choose one favourite memory with the club. We have played some special games in the EHL over the years. We love playing in EHL and hopefully, on June 4, I can say the FINAL4 at Dragons is my best memory!”