There was a time when hockey in Canberra was a really big deal and we hosted international matches on a regular basis.
For one reason or another, including COVID and the basing of national players in Perth, the profile of the sport has dropped off to the extent that the National Hockey Centre hasn’t hosted a Kookaburras or Hockeyroos game for a decade.
Now it would appear that hockey in Canberra is reinvigorated.
There is a declaration of ambition well beyond the local competition, and it has already started to pay dividends.
For a start, Canberra has been awarded the hosting rights for the Hockey One domestic league finals in November.
Hockey ACT has also signalled it wants to attract the Kookaburras and the Hockeyroos back to Canberra, but it will need ACT Government assistance to upgrade the pitch to bring the playing surface up to international standard.
That proactive mindset isn’t confined to the staging of high-profile matches. There is also an obvious desire to bolster the Canberra Chill program by recruiting star players for the upcoming Hockey One series.
Heading the list is 32-year-old Indian superstar Rupinder Pal Singh, regarded as one of the top drag flickers in world hockey.
The dual Olympian, with 220 international appearances, brings with him close to a million followers on social media.
Hockey ACT CEO Rob Sheekey hopes his signing will promote the sport beyond the existing supporter base in Canberra.
“We are hoping to attract new audiences to the Hockey One League. We are also looking to engage with the Indian community in Canberra,” says Rob Sheekey.
“His arrival coincides with the Hook into Hockey program, which is an introduction to the sport and is being delivered into multi-languages.”
The Canberra Chill men’s team made the semi-finals last season. This year, they will be without the 2022 Men’s Hockey One player of the competition, Andrew Charter, who is out due to a hamstring strain.
The Canberra Chill women’s team has been bolstered by the recruitment of three Irish internationals, Katie Mullan, Roisin Upton and Sarah Hawkshaw.
Says Rob, “It was important that they wanted to play in Canberra. We’ve gone from chasing players to players wanting to play in the Hockey One league. It has become a very strong domestic competition.”
Hockeyroo Kalindi Commerford is back, while Edwina Bone is expected to return at some stage in the league this season. She is currently pregnant and will return after the birth of her child.
Anna Flanagan was originally listed in the line-up but has since pulled out.
The Canberra Chill will play their first game on 7 October against the Perth Thundersticks in Perth.
The seven-team, six-game league will see the Canberra Chill men’s and women’s teams play three doubleheaders at Lyneham against the Tassie Tigers on 15 October, against the NSW Pride on 28 October, and the Brisbane Blaze on Friday, 10 November.
Then, of course, the top four teams in the men’s and women’s head to Canberra for the finals in a major coup for the sport in the ACT.
This also provides an added incentive to the Chill teams. To qualify will mean they will play finals in front of their home crowd.
Find out more at Hockey ACT.