Author: Nic Kerber/Thursday, 21 November 2019
The 27-player Kookaburras squad has been announced for next year’s bumper international calendar, headlined by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and defence of the FIH Pro League title.
The majority of this year’s squad that qualified for Tokyo 2020, won the inaugural Pro League and secured the world number one ranking have been retained, with exciting young talents, 20 year old Victorian Nathan Ephraums and Sydney based Kurt Lovett, aged 22, the two new inclusions.
Ephraums and Lovett were both members of this year’s National Development Squad and performed outstandingly during the recent Sultana Bran Hockey One League, Lovett scoring eight goals for the season as part of NSW Pride’s all conquering men’s championship team.
In 2017 Ephraums was named the player of the tournament at the Sultan of Johor Cup while representing Australia’s Under 21 team, and has spent periods of this year training with the Kookaburras at their base in Perth.
Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch said the duo’s form over the past 12 months more than warranted their selection.
“Kurt had a break out season in Hockey One. He had a number of good games including in the finals and put his name forward in a way that we couldn’t ignore,” said Batch.
“Kurt has knocked on the door for a while now. He competed at the Junior World Cup in 2016 but wasn’t able to break into the senior squad…what we’re seeing now is much more direct output from him…he’s scoring goals, breaking from midfield, creating some really good opportunities on the counter attack, and he is a more mature player now.”
“Nathan had some good performances in Hockey One but it is also what he has done over a period of time when he has trained with us in VAA (Visiting Athlete Agreement) opportunities, and he was also part of our build up for the Oceania Cup.”
“He has performed well every time he has come into our group. He’s got a great attitude, wants to learn, is really exciting around the attacking circle and finishes well.”
When it comes to selecting a squad, Batch reiterated what it is ultimately determined by.
“We’ve got to keep stressing to the athletes that it’s their performance on the pitch that matters,” said Batch.
“We saw that in Hockey One but it’s also what we see in our daily training environment day in day out. We assess that and will continue to do so into next year – that the players are training consistently well week in week out.”
“I think we’ve got a good core group but there are some really good young players pushing up from underneath, so the depth of men’s hockey in Australia is really solid at the moment, which creates that pressure and intensity.”
With minimal turnover in the squad for next year, Batch believes this Kookaburras group is yet to reach its full potential, something he hopes will come on the biggest stage at the 2020 Olympics.
“We did really well in 2019 so we can tick that off as a good year but know there is a lot of improvement left in this group,” said Batch.
“I’m looking to all of the players to create more opportunities and growth in the group both individually and for us as a team, and if we are going to be successful next year we have to have that.”
“We talk about the 2020 national squad but this is the squad that the Olympic team will come out of, so that in itself is a great achievement for all of the athletes who have been selected.
“Our goal is to play well at the Olympics. Our preparation has to be good all the way through. We start training in early January and then Pro League begins in late January so for us the focus is to keep improving and maintain that enthusiasm and excitement.
“If you do all of those things it puts you in a good position to have success rather than always thinking about the outcome.”
With the announcement of the 2020 squad, other notable aspects include Tasmanian Eddie Ockenden possibly heading towards competing at a fourth Olympics and breaking Jamie Dwyer’s all-time Kookaburras appearance record, while a host of players including Tom Craig, Blake Govers, Tom Wickham, Matt Swann, Jeremy Hayward and Jacob Whetton are nearing individual milestones.
But these individual achievements pale in comparison to the Kookaburras’ primary mission – winning Australia’s second Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey.
The Kookaburras’ next internationals will be their opening matches of the FIH Pro League 2020 on 25/26 January against Belgium in Sydney. Tickets for the matches are available now through Ticketek.
The team that will represent Australia at Tokyo 2020 is expected to be announced in mid June.
Kookaburras 2020 squad
Name, Date of Birth, Hometown, Hockey One Team, Caps (Goals)
Jacob Anderson, 22/03/1997, Mackay QLD, Brisbane Blaze, 19 (8)
Daniel Beale, 12/02/1993, Brisbane QLD, Brisbane Blaze, 171 (28)
Josh Beltz, 24/04/1995, Hobart TAS, Tassie Tigers, 39 (3)
Tim Brand, 29/11/1998, Chatswood NSW, NSW Pride, 34 (15)
Andrew Charter (gk), 30/03/1987, Canberra ACT, Canberra Chill, 177 (0)
Tom Craig, 3/09/1995, Lane Cove NSW, NSW Pride, 97 (27)
Matthew Dawson, 7/04/1994, Killarney Vale NSW, NSW Pride, 132 (12)
Johan Durst (gk), 18/03/1991, Melbourne VIC, HC Melbourne, 3 (0)
Nathan Ephraums, 9/06/1999, Keysborough VIC, HC Melbourne, -
Blake Govers, 6/07/1996, Wollongong NSW, NSW Pride, 97 (83)
Jake Harvie, 5/03/1998, Dardanup WA, Perth Thundersticks, 64 (3)
Jeremy Hayward, 3/03/1993, Darwin NT, Tassie Tigers, 149 (62)
Tim Howard, 23/06/1996, Wakerley QLD, Brisbane Blaze, 54 (1)
Tyler Lovell (gk), 23/05/1987, Perth WA, Perth Thundersticks, 141 (0)
Kurt Lovett, 15/01/1997, Parkes NSW, NSW Pride , -
Trent Mitton, 26/11/1990, Perth WA, Perth Thundersticks, 168 (75)
Eddie Ockenden, 3/04/1987, Hobart TAS, Tassie Tigers, 358 (70)
Flynn Ogilvie, 17/09/1993, Wollongong NSW, NSW Pride, 103 (21)
Lachlan Sharp, 2/07/1997, Lithgow NSW, NSW Pride, 42 (8)
Josh Simmonds, 4/10/1995, Melbourne VIC, HC Melbourne, 15 (0)
Matthew Swann, 16/05/1989, Mackay QLD, Brisbane Blaze, 198 (7)
Jack Welch, 26/10/1997, Hobart TAS, Tassie Tigers, 8 (2)
Corey Weyer, 28/03/1996, Biggera Waters QLD, Brisbane Blaze, 38 (3)
Jacob Whetton, 16/06/1991, Brisbane QLD, Brisbane Blaze, 197 (64)
Tom Wickham, 26/05/1990, Morgan SA, Perth Thundersticks, 48 (20)
Dylan Wotherspoon, 9/04/1993, Murwillumbah NSW, Brisbane Blaze, 86 (30)
Aran Zalewski, 21/03/1991, Margaret River WA, Perth Thundersticks, 183 (23)