Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Debutants

During the recent Australia v India test series, Flynn Ogilvie, Matthew Dawson, Tom Craig, Leon Hayward and Dylan Wotherspoon's made their Kookaburra debuts. Here you can watch all the build-up and preparation that leads into playing for the Australian Men's Hockey Team.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ric Charlesworth - The Legend.

“The reign of one of Australian sport’s finest coaches is set to end after Kookaburras mentor Ric Charlesworth announced he will step down after the Commonwealth Games later this year”. With that headline, this blog began, albeit a few months ago. But Ric had one last trick up his sleeve, an early retirement. As was Rics way, he did something different to the norm. I’ll add it to the list as I take the chance to write about our coach, our mentor and my mate Ric.

Many superlatives can be used to describe Ric. Knowledgeable, prepared, thorough, passionate, competitive, honest, influential, cryptic, uncompromising, perfectionist, crazy or stubborn, the list goes on and on. But one of his greatest traits is that he cares about his players and has crafted and perfected the rare ability to extract the best out of most of them. He knows which players need extra attention and which players can handle a kick up the arse. Just as he knows who isn’t working hard enough or who is exceeding expectations.

He adheres to the philosophy of troubling the comfortable and comforting the troubled. It was this mantra that saw him occasionally clash with the greatest female player of our generation, Alyson Annan. “We were all motivated to be the best we could be,” said Annan. “Ric’s undeniable ability to bring the best and the worst out in people is extraordinary.
“ It is a shame that it is only when you get older that you begin to realise just how good it was, how great our team was and how dedicated we were to achieve our goals.” It's only been a few months since Ric departed, but I'm already starting to get that feeling...

I had many arguments with Ric, or as he liked to call them, ‘robust discussions’. A contest of ideas he reckons. Contests he still always wanted to win. These robust discussions often left each of us with something to think about even if we didn’t resolve the issue immediately at hand. A handful of times over the past six years I would have either called my Dad or girlfriend and vented. ‘Fucking Ric, what’s his problem?’ to which they would usually reply, ‘why do you think he said that? This would cause me the most annoyance, as more often than not, I'd spend so long trying to work out the meaning behind his comments that I’d often forget what we were even ‘robustly discussing’ in the first place. It usually always circled around to motivating me to be better, to push myself more and reach my true potential. Something I probably failed to do in his time in charge, even with his constant encouragement.

One of the first things Ric ever said to the Kookaburras group was that he would treat us all fairly but not necessarily equally. And to his credit, he upheld this notion for the most part. Glenn Turner lived and trained in Goulburn for a large part of Ric’s time in charge because it enabled him to keep his long-term job and be close to his family. Tristan White shared his time between Wollongong and Perth in order to study and train in the environment best suited to his needs. And Jamie Dwyer skipped a session here and there last year in order to manage his workload leading into the World Cup. All were different circumstances but all were in the best interests of the individual and therefore, the team.

Being a avid reader and wordsmith, Ric would often bamboozle the group with his penchant for big words, some I still believe he made up, but would usually make it an enjoyable experience for all. He used to single Mark Paterson out, he was the human dictionary. Ric would shout out a word, Pato would have to define it, Pato would generally stuff it up and we would all have a good laugh. He would mingle with the group whilst away on tour, not everyday, but just enough. The corridor of the hotel was where he would model his various fashion faux paus’, or as he would call them, ‘future trends’. He would gather many of the single boys in every now and then and give them some advice on how to ‘pick up chicks’. Not many chicks were picked up in those six years. We even found something that Ric wasn’t good at during one tour of Malaysia…playstation. One of the worst to ever pickup the controller. He swore, he whinged, he whined, he stunk the place up with his lousy attempt at AFL and after a few goes at trying to master it, cracked the shits, blamed the game's creators and slunk his way out of the room.

Ric has a pretty quick wit as well, and could deliver a line with timing and enough of an edge to leave you partly laughing but partly shitting yourself. I remember Ric once asking if anyone had replied to his email, asking for information on a previous tour. I replied “I think all of your emails go to my trash Ric”. At that moment he wheeled around and with a menacing look said to me “Well Orch, selection is tomorrow and I have a feeling your name will go straight to the trash bin”. Oops. I made sure I replied to Ric as soon as I got home from training.

In terms of coaching, he achieved a 77 per cent win ratio with both the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras teams. In all, he won 333 matches as coach, losing just 50. Find me a coach with a better record over such a long period and I will eat my hockey stick.

Doctor, politician, Sheffield Shield cricket captain (although it was saidpaint dried and grass grew faster than Ric scored runs’), exceptional hockey player then decorated coach, consultant to Indian hockey, New Zealand cricket and the Fremantle Dockers AFL team, Ric, at 62, decided it was time to retire and spend more time with his young family. And who could blame him. He has given so much to hockey, and sport in general. He has revolutionised the way hockey is played to the point where the Kookaburras are now lauded by the public worldwide and are the envy of all of our competitors.
His outspoken approach has at times brought criticism and misunderstanding, but he has never backed down from wanting to improve the game and to keep it contemporary in an ever changing sporting landscape.
Here, a direct quote from Ric sums up our style of play the best “I think what I always tried to do as a coach were create teams that were exceptional – teams that did things better than everybody else, teams that pushed the margins, that extended themselves, and tried to dominate and change the game.”
He’s amongst the greatest coaches in the modern sporting era but was still learning and evolving after 20 years in the game. Soccer analyst and World Cup commentator Simon Hill made the comment after Brazil 2014 that teams which attack with lightning pace, and press high with dynamic energy have inherited the earth. Now I realise soccer isn’t hockey but the games have many similarities and it’s no coincidence that the style of play that set the football world alight in Brazil was first pioneered in hockey by Ric in 2009 when he took over the Kookaburras. He’s that far ahead of the game…
In one of my last ‘robust discussions’ with Ric, we discussed the future and it was then that I saw the first signs that maybe he had grown tired of the coaching caper. He had always said that a coach’s lifespan was about 6-8 years, anymore than that and he thought the message and the process started to become a bit stale.
I walked away from that meeting with a sense that he was carrying some uncertainty about his role as head coach. I've often thought a man of his ilk would never struggle with self-confidence but I feel it’s often the greatest people that require the most positive reinforcement, something that probably didn’t come from our group all too often. He asked me if I thought he was the right man for the job (perhaps tongue in cheek) and I’m pretty sure he cut me off before I could say anything…
What I wanted to say was 'yes, of course you are. You, along with the rest of our coaching staff are the reason we are the best side in the world. You’ve taught us how to be better hockey players and in the last 12-24 months especially, better men as well. You motivate players to realise their potential and reach levels no one else thought possible. You’re more than a coach, you’re a mentor, a teacher, a father figure, a mate. And above all else Ric, the part that impresses me the most is that you have maintained the focus and purpose to sustain excellence whilst everyone else struggles to sustain success'. 

I went home that day, after the meeting, and wrote a two-page email basically saying a lot of the stuff in this blog but never sent it. I just let it sit. I don’t think it would have changed his mind about coaching but at least then he would of known how I felt. Hopefully after reading this he will…even though he professes to never reading this ‘rubbish’.
To finish, after the London Olympics Ric sent us all out an individual review. Mine wasn’t great and it annoyed me. He wanted to meet up, I didn’t. But finally we got hold of each other and that was when I told him that review aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympic experience and that although I was extremely disappointed to not win a gold medal with my teammates in London, I was still happy.

He still thinks I’m crazy. Can't comprehend it. I don’t think he could believe what he was hearing. How could I say that, especially as he was so disappointed, taking a lot of the blame upon himself? This is the one thing I thought Ric could do better, enjoy the ride, make the most of the good and bad and remember that it is only a game. Alas, he doesn’t think that way.

But for me, a quote from Alyson Annan’s book says it best. “Failure is never fun, but success doesn’t guarantee happiness. What guarantees happiness, whether you have failed or succeeded, is knowing that you gave it your best effort”. I think everyone can train harder, longer, better, with more determination, energy and effort. I could of done much more. But as a coach, Ric left no stone unturned in his quest, our quest for an Olympic gold medal. So instead of being so hard on yourself Ric, pat yourself on the back for a change, knowing that you gave it your all, gave us the best chance of winning. And sit back now, knowing that you stand atop the coaching mountain with names like Harry Hopman, Wayne Bennett and Rod MacQueen. Maybe you can change that motto as well, something like...

What is the price of life? The Pursuit of Happyness ; )

Ric kept us guessing his entire coaching career and he did it again with his early retirement announcement. I for one was really disappointed in the decision, but am thrilled he could go out the way he did. His hockey and life lessons will stick with me forever in a day. The coach that changed the way we play and win. The coach that reinvented our game. The coach that just wanted the best for his team. The greatest coach there ever was…Ric, you are a legend!

The 'enigmatic' Ric Charlesworth at our post-2014 World Cup celebrations

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A Golden Chapter – Comprehensive, Connected and Resilient

It’s been a while between blogs but for good reason I think. The last few months have been some of the most challenging but rewarding of my life. I started writing this blog on the way home from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where the Kookaburras once again proved why we are amongst the best sporting teams in the world. We successfully defended the Commonwealth Games title we won back in Delhi in 2010, and only months after regaining what is the greatest prize in our sport outside of the Olympic Games, the Hockey World Cup.

Three words sum these last few months up for me; comprehensive, connected and resilient, and today’s blog will explain why. Because although we’ve seemingly blown everyone away over the last few months, this period hasn’t been without its difficulties. And even though this blog could easily centre around our obvious on-field success so far this year, it wont. It will showcase the commitment and class of a few guys in the side that epitomise the team first mentality this group has adopted over the last few years and the bonds we have forged because of it. This is how you build a platform for success...

On the eve of the World Cup two of our teammates and form players, Glenn Simpson and Russell Ford, were ruled out after sustaining injuries only days before the tournament was due to begin. Simmo copped a nasty whack on the ankle in a warm-up game v England resulting in a break. Rusty took off on a lead in our last practice game v Germany only to feel something wrong with his calf, it was a tear.

I will never forget the feeling in the room when Ric had to deliver the news to the team that Glenn and Russ had been ruled out of the World Cup. I’m not usually one to use superlatives that compare sport to war and battle because they are nothing alike, but this was as tough a moment as I’ve ever endured, it was heartbreaking. Everyone’s face was plastered with devastation. Russ had tears in his eyes, Simmo was stoic but you could tell he was clearly shattered as well, yet neither of them let their emotions hijack the situation. And if someone had of walked into the room right then, they would have stumbled upon one of the defining moments of our trip. A moment when 20 blokes were unified - truly connected - by what had just happened.

I look back now and still wonder how the hell we all pulled it together so well. Partly because we had prepared so well for such an instance. We’d spent many late nights discussing endless possibilities, dealing with our feelings, talking things over and learning to understand each other and how we should react to potential events of this nature. But the main reason we got on with the job so well was the attitude of the boys directly involved. Obviously it was an extremely difficult situation but such is the nature of Simmo and Russ, they didn’t let it impact on the team and as such should be applauded for their resilience. They were all class and although they missed the tournament, they were a huge part of the team’s success. That afternoon set the scene for what would be a memorable few weeks.

But from great tragedy comes great opportunity. Enter Tim Deavin and Matt Gohdes. Both boys were travelling with the side in the lead up to the tournament in the off chance that they may be needed if something went wrong. It says a lot about the character of both of them, knowing that their dream was so close yet still out of reach when we took off for The Hague. They ate, slept, trained, recovered and attended meetings with the rest of the team; all the while knowing that ultimately they would be leaving the day the tournament began. But they were called on and they both delivered in spades. It can’t have been easy but both of them slotted straight into the side and had a huge impact on what is one of our sport’s biggest stages. Bravo boys!

The World Cup was everything it was billed to be. In my opinion, the greatest hockey nation in the world hosted the greatest hockey event the world has ever seen. The stadium was colossal. The fans were loud and passionate. The city embraced each nation and showcased all the good things about our sport. And as a team, we may have finally lived up to our considerable potential. We stood on the podium with our gold medals and were as close to exceptional as I think we’ve ever been. We had just annihilated the Dutch 6-1 in the final to cap off an undefeated tournament. This might have even pleased Ric Charlesworth, not for long though I’m sure.

But before the dust could even settle on the greatest moment of our careers, our coach and two of our most senior players decided to call it quits. Ric said he’d had enough and perhaps the fire that'd burnt so brightly in him for so long had finally began to fade. Team mainstays Liam De Young and Rob Hammond announced their retirement’s days later and so ended three outstanding Kookaburra chapters. There was plenty of emotion flying around that’s for sure.

But the rollercoaster had only just started to rev up. Our Commonwealth Games team was then announced and many new faces were included. Jamie Dwyer was left out in what can only be described as a decision with the future in mind, even though I still think he is amongst the best 16 players in the country. But as the team showed in Glasgow, the future is bright. We had 10 Commonwealth Games debutants and a 4-0 result in the final again capped off another undefeated run. New faces announced themselves, guided by the experience of others who had been there before. And the tournament was fun! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Glasgow and it puts an exclamation point on the best few months of my hockey career to date.

And what is most incredible and outstanding for me is the fact that we did what any great team does, we defended our titles and we did it comprehensively. We are the worlds best and I for one am going to spend the next few months letting that sink in. There’s only one thing missing from the trophy cabinet now…

Cheers guys,

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Thanks to Voodoo Hockey Australia – best sticks in the business!

***Whilst writing this blog I was listening to Milky Chance's album - Sadnecessary. Check it out : D

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Kookaburras v New Zealand, the GOT score and World Cup selection

Happy Easter everyone!

Today I’ll be wrapping up the recent two test series we played against New Zealand over the weekend in Perth. I will mention a few standout players and special moments from the games. I will then explain a pretty interesting statistic that the Kookaburras use in each match called the GOT and finish with a few thoughts on selection and how it affects me and the group.

But first, New Zealand are our neighbours and oldest rivals. They always have been, always will be. Our battles are often fierce contests played with intensity, energy, emotion and a high skill level. However in my opinion, the matches over the weekend only showcased these elements in dribs and drabs.

We ran out 4-1 winners in Match 1 but the scoreline probably flattered us a little. Although we had a number of good opportunities to score, with 10 minutes to go it was still 2-1 and it took a late brace from Jake Whetton to put the result beyond doubt. We played OK. Our essential skills let us down at times, we failed to capitalise on our fair share of chances and lost control of the match briefly in the second half which allowed New Zealand to sneak back into it. New Zealand seemed a bit off and didn’t play with their usual spark. This was unexpected.

Match 2 was different. I didn’t play but it seemed there was a strong reaction from the Black Sticks as they muscled up and applied more pressure in each contest. They were hard-nosed, physical, desperate and played with better tone and enthusiasm than in Match 1. It ended up being a 1-1 draw as chances were hard to come by for both sides. Our guys weren’t happy with the match afterwards and cited the lack of good connections and sloppy basic skills as areas that required attention.

So who stood out? For me there were a few:

Jake Whetton – small in stature but large in influence, Whetto only played the one match but seemed to be involved in everything good. He set one goal up and scored a brace himself, highlighted by a terrific tomma from an almost impossible angle. That goal snatched back control of the game for us and his second killed it off. His energy is contagious and his variety of leads bamboozled the Kiwi defence.

Joel Carroll – has been out of action for a while but slotted back into the side with ease, playing both matches. Joel was his typical rock-like self in defence and constantly slapped penetrating balls to our high forwards. After a fair bit of time out, he will definitely be better off for the run and looked ominous with and without the ball.

Russell Ford – celebrated his 150th cap in Match 1 in what has been a great career to date. Russ has been our most consistently brilliant striker over the past two years as he continues to improve and grow in confidence. His goal scoring ability is up there with the best in the world and his off the ball awareness and situational knowledge is superb. He is getting better every day and all at the ripe old age of 30 ; )

A special mention must also go to Dean Cousins. The Black Sticks skipper played his 300th match in Perth in what is truly an awesome achievement. Not many players reach a milestone like this and you could sense the New Zealand lads rose to the occasion in Match 2 as they no doubt tried to get a much-deserved victory for their captain. Congrats Dean.

Moving on and our coach Ric Charlesworth loves his stats. He could give you a stat on almost anything. How many goal shots we’ve had since 2008. How many times we’ve conceded a PC in the last 5 minutes of a game. He could probably even give you a stat on how often Tim Deavin picks up on tour (not much). But one statistic that is mentioned more often than any other around our group is the GOT.

The goal opportunity total (GOT) is a system in which our coaching staff ranks each chance both teams get to score in every game. A chance is generally a shot or attempted shot at goal, each shot is given a score between 1-5 and then it is tallied up at the end.

For example, an unopposed shot from the stroke spot would be given a score of 5 in the GOT, whilst a contested shot from the baseline would be awarded a 1. A stroke or a corner registers a 5 as well.

Our two recent matches against New Zealand had the following GOT scores:

Match 1                       Kookaburras 70 - New Zealand 20                              (4-1 Win)
Match 2                       Kookaburras 45 - New Zealand 19                              (1-1 Draw)

Now a bigger GOT doesn’t always mean a bigger score. And although we find ourselves winning the GOT score more often than not, we don’t always win the match. Why? Because at times we are wasteful.

Below is the GOT score from the London Olympic semi-final v Germany. We lost that game 4-2 but won the GOT. Big deal right? It does show that we created more chances than them but at the end of the day, our failure to be more efficient potentially cost us a shot at an Olympic Gold medal.

Semi-Final                   Kookaburras 45 – Germany 39                                    (4-2 Loss)

The GOT basically represents the ability of each side to capitalise on their chances and we believe that if we create enough chances, eventually we will score. That’s why we are always so aggressive. That’s why we press. That’s why we don’t take our foot off the pedal. And that’s why we are the number 1 ranked team in the world at the moment.

It’s interesting and it’s often an objective of ours to register a single figure defensive GOT score in each half of hockey we play. It hasn’t been done too often.

To finish today my focus turns to World Cup selections, which are happening this weekend. It’s a nerve-wracking time for some. Everyone handles the selection process differently and deals with the pending news in their own way.

The hardest part of selection is knowing that there is limited room in the side and that quite a few guys will be unhappy. Tough, life-altering decisions have to be made and I don’t envy this part of Ric and the coaching staff’s job for one minute. Nearly half the group will miss out. I could be disappointed. My mates might be disappointed. And for those that are lucky enough to get in, conversations with these people are often the most difficult any sportsperson can have. But they need to be had. Sometimes that support is the difference between pushing on and throwing it in.

Selection is done via email which most of the group feels is the best way to receive the news. Most isolate themselves around the time the team is sent out. I guess in case the news is bad. We have it alright compared to some shocking ways the news has been delivered in the past.

I remember Liam De Young telling a story about his early days in the Australian side and how he awkwardly found out about selection one day. He was on the way home from training with Rob Hammond and Nathan Eglington who he lived with at the time when one of their phones rang…it was the coach delivering the team news. One by one they passed the phone around the car for each guy to receive the good or bad news. They didn’t all get in. Awkward? Bloody oaf!

I remember reading a terrible story about Hockeyroo Katie Allen and her selection drama. She was told to call Hockey Australia at a prescribed time, state her name and then wait nervously as the admin lady scrolled through the list to try and find it. If it was there “Congratulations”, if not “Commiserations” and that was it. Allen went through this process twice. On the first occasion she missed out. On the second, she got in. Bugger that!

One of my earliest memories of missing selection was the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I was only 21 at the time and although I was realistically no shot at making that side, getting the email and not seeing my name hurt a lot. I messaged my Dad and said something along the lines of “I don’t want to do this anymore, this is the worst feeling in the world. Years of hard work for nothing. I’m coming home”. Six years late, I’m glad I stuck with it. It was difficult at the time but I know that moment contributed greatly towards making me the player I am today.

These days though, I try not to think too much about it. Selection or not, life will go on. I will spend Sunday morning at the beach and hopefully get the email sometime when I jump out of the water. I’m hoping for good news but only time will tell.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter weekend and ate plenty of choccy. Remember the Hockey World Cup starts on May 31, all of our matches will be shown on the ABC and hopefully live streamed through Get around it and look out for more updates from me along the way.


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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Hockey India League - The New Face of Hockey?

Hi hockey friends,

Now that the dust has settled on the 2014 edition of the Hockey India League (HIL) it’s about time I fill you in on all the excitement. I’ve had a few weeks to reminisce and collect my thoughts and have finally managed to put it all down on paper…so to speak…and today you’ll get my take on everything HIL and everything India.

The HIL is a groundbreaking concept. Six teams from all over the country battled it out over six weeks of high octane, highlight reel hockey. It’s promoted as ‘the way hockey should be played’. Loud music. Big crowds. Noisy crowds! DJ’s at every field. Television cameras capturing all the action from every angle. And most importantly, world class talent on the pitch. Players from Germany, Holland, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Malaysia and England all take part and with each successful year, the hype spreads to players from other countries who hope to take part in future installments.

The league itself has a similar setup to the lucrative India Premier League cricket competition. Originally there was a live auction held over an entire day where each player who had nominated for the tournament was put under the hammer. It was quite a bizarre feeling watching the powerbrokers of each franchise mull over a potentially life altering process for me and plenty of my Australian teammates. I ended up being sold to the Jaypee Punjab Warriors.

The Jaypee Group owns the franchise and they are India's third largest cement producer and the countries largest private sector hydropower company. It was founded by Jaiprakash Gaur and does business in Engineering & Construction, Power, Cement, Real Estate, Hospitality, Expressways, IT, Sports & even Education (not-for-profit). We’ve had the honor of meeting Jaiprakash before and it is clear he is not just a silent investor. He loves hockey, he loves the Punjab people and he loves his Warriors.

Australian Barry Dancer is head coach and our marquee player is none other than Jamie Dwyer. We have, in my opinion, the best player in the world in Mark Knowles, the best goalkeeper in the world in Jaap Stockmann and the best drag flicker in the world in Sandeep Singh. We are based out of Mohali, which is in India’s north and finished 4th in last year’s tournament whilst being runners-up this year. Our group is a mixture of young and old, Indian and foreign, talented and supremely talented and developing relationships with these other hockey players has been one of the highlights of my two years so far.

I was sold at auction for roughly $50,000AUD, which for a hockey player was beyond imaginable only a few short years ago. I was over the moon and even more so to see many of my close mates also get picked up by various teams. The hockey landscape had been instantly altered on one December day in 2012.

To put it all in perspective, I would say an Australian men’s hockey player would earn somewhere between $35-$40,000/year for being a part of the national program. The HIL allows me to earn more money over six weeks of competition in India then I do for an entire year training and playing for the national team. Many players are enticed overseas to big money European offers, but these same guys can now earn more money playing in India for six weeks then they could playing in Europe for six months. The money is fantastic, but of course this is not why we play the game. So what else does the HIL allow us to do?

It also has a flow on effect for hockey in Australia as we can now afford to stay based in Perth and train more often with the national squad. This has always been a gripe of Ric Charlesworth. Not that we go overseas, he has always understood the need for us to earn an income and he appreciates the benefits of playing hockey in a strong competition overseas. But he wishes we didn’t have to. Imagine how good we would be if we trained together day in, day out, all year round he thinks? And I agree with him to an extent.

Staying in Perth also means we can play club hockey in the local Perth competition, which is so important to me. I love being a part of the Fremantle Magpies Hockey Club. They have a very positive and infectious club culture. They bleed black and white. They are passionate and play with intensity and intent that breeds toughness and builds character. I have felt like I belong since the day I was drafted there and love nothing more than knocking back a few beers with them after each hard fought game.

Basing ourselves here can also help develop and nurture future Kookaburras in the local area. Not only in the Fremantle area but all around Perth. The Kookaburras are almost an institution in W.A. The team has been based here for so long that many kids have grown up watching the team train and play around the area for years. This continued relationship, if nurtured properly, can only inspire the Kookaburras of tomorrow.

Finally, we can put more time, effort and energy into our endeavors off the field as well, be that work or study. Hockey doesn’t pay the bills, or hasn’t until the HIL kicked off. But that’s no reason to stop developing our lives off the field. For many, the next chapter of our lives isn’t that far away.

It’s also interesting to look at how the HIL can affect Indian hockey. When will India start seeing improved results for the national team? I predict it is still many years away. Many of the Indian players are very raw and their knowledge of the game is only in its infancy. Some possess the best stick skills I have ever seen, however they do not know how to run an attacking press? They play old school positions like left wing, centre forward and right wing without much movement or flexibility. This is vital as I believe world hockey is going through a period of change. And in an era where players are becoming position less, the Indian team has a lot to learn. They are traditionalists and therefore rarely explore these options, which may be a reason why they are struggling to make progress on the world stage. They are improving though, and god help us when they finally work it all out. They are the sleeping giants of world hockey.

So whichever way you look at it, the HIL is clearly a huge game changer and I am so appreciative to be given an opportunity to be involved. The first two seasons have been a raging success and with talk of new teams, new players and new innovations I am sure it will continue to thrive for many years to come.

Before I go, below are some thoughts I jotted down whilst in India last month. I talk about the Indian country, it’s people and it’s culture and although it’s a little random and done in the past tense, I think you’ll find it interesting. 

Enjoy, you’ll hear from me again real soon!

Words sometimes cannot describe what it’s like to be in India. As soon as you get out of the airport, your body goes into sensory overload. It’s hot, smelly, dirty, dusty, loud, colourful – it blows you away! It’s shocking, polluted, energetic, crowded but so interesting and fun.

Riding in a cab or a bus through the beautiful city of Mumbai was a highlight for me on this trip. There is constant ‘chatter’ around the city. Car horns are blaring and then BANG, our cab driver nudges into the car in front of him. No worries he says. Jackhammers are pounding as another concrete jungle is slowly being erected. The scaffolding looks like it couldn’t withstand a stiff breeze let alone 50 men’s weight. Dogs are barking, most of which are limping or missing a leg due to some kind of car ploughing into them. And probably the worst thing we see is the kids that are begging in the streets. Some so small that only their outstretched hands make it to the car window. One little girl is dislocating her shoulders and using her arms as some kind of skipping rope. A cow slowly weaves in and out of oncoming traffic without a care in the world.

Before yesterdays match I went to the hotel restaurant for lunch. I ate a plate consisting of rice, some curry sauce and 2 potatoes. Before the match I went to the toilet and the floor of the bathroom was flooded with water, with mosquitoes buzzing around everywhere. The toilet paper was soaking wet and to make matters worse, the toilet seat wasn’t even connected to the toilet itself. Shit, literally!

I’ve been in India for just over three weeks now and although I have been here a few times before, it never ceases to amaze me. The people, the food and the culture in general are all remarkably different to what we have back in Australia.

The Indian people are brilliant. They seem to cherish what they have and although many of them have little, a smile - the universal currency - is only ever a wave or funny face away. They celebrate occasions that many take for granted and are probably amongst the friendliest people I have ever met.

The Indian food is a spicy and a flavourful smack in the face . Each day it feels like we are playing Russian Roulette, just waiting for something to go down the wrong way. Every morning when the foreigners arrive for breakfast I do a quick count and almost breath a sigh of relief knowing that a bad piece of mutton hasn’t taken one of the boy’s down.

The Indian culture is intriguing but largely an unknown for me. I have already spent a few hours with my Punjab teammates and coaches learning about India’s rich history and how different religions shape the Indian way of life. Most of the team prays before each session, Chris Ciriello has even started doing this?? And they chant when we leave the hotel for each match. Some of the boy’s adhere to Sikhism, some Islam and some Hinduism but they all get along famously.

There are a few similarities between our countries though. Both countries absolutely love cricket and if I briefly compare India to Perth where I am based most of the year, both places show a blatant disregard for road rules of any kind. Perth drivers are shocking but peak hour in Delhi is like playing the old game Frogger…but with many, many more cars.

I am really enjoying it here, but I can’t wait to get home to everything I love about Australia. The food, the ocean, the road rules, the Kookaburras, my house, my girlfriend, my mates and my way of life!