India hockey's key man Ciriello steps down from role

Chris Ciriello had joined the backroom staff of the Indian hockey team in 2018 and had performed multiple roles including assistant coach and team manager.

By Rahul Venkat

Former Australia international Chris Ciriello resigned from his post as analytical coach of the Indian hockey men’s team on Tuesday.

Ciriello had returned home to Perth before the COVID-19-induced lockdown in India to undergo treatment for a skin condition. It is understood that this was the primary reason why he resigned despite signing a new one-year contract recently.

“My condition is getting better but I have to go for UV light treatment three times a week. Doctors said it could take six to eight weeks to recover but were not sure,” Ciriello told the Hindustan Times.

“The (Indian hockey) team needs someone there now and I can’t be there. I wanted to come back. But I also didn’t want to put any of the guys at risk.”

Ciriello is the third member of the support staff to quit the Indian hockey men’s team in recent months after the departures of high-performance director David John and team physio David MacDonald.

Chris Ciriello had been analytical coach of the Indian hockey team since 2018. Photo: Hockey India.

Donning multiple hats

The 34-year-old Chris Ciriello is a bronze medallist with the Australian hockey team at London 2012 Olympics and has lifted the 2014 World Cup, where he scored a hat-trick in the final. He retired in 2017 and joined the coaching staff of the Indian hockey men’s team in early 2018.

The Australian was officially the analytical coach of the team but performed other roles, such as assistant coach and team manager, at various tournaments.

An ace drag-flicker during his prime, Ciriello’s inputs also proved to be useful for India’s penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh and other defenders.

Ciriello was also a vital cog in the backroom staff of current chief coach Graham Reid and his departure could be a big blow to the Indian hockey men’s team a year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Moreover, the effect of Ciriello’s resignation will be felt off-the-field as well, as his wife Heidi took English language lessons for the team along with Graham Reid’s wife Julia.