Tom Wickham might be 34 by the time the Paris 2024 Olympic Games roll around, but don’t let anyone tell the Perth Thundersticks forward that his international clock is ticking.
Primed for a huge JDH Hockey One League season ahead, Wickham is enjoying the game more than ever before and the results have spoken for themselves. While he knows this season will have a legitimate impact on the prospects of those looking to book a ticket to Paris, Wickham is in no rush to call time on the sport which has given him so much.
“I think often people try to put a ceiling on age but for me, I’m still moving around fine,” said Wickham. “I’m playing the best hockey of my life and I’m still contributing at an international level, at a state level, at a club level.
“I don’t do it to chase medals, I do it because I love the game. I love the game and everything it does for me. It’s given me my life, so I have no plans on stopping post-Paris.
“If there’s still a place and a position for me in the Kookaburras then so be it; if not, or if certain circumstances mean that it’s time for me to hang the boots up, then I’ll assess that then.
“But for me, as long as I’m still contributing, I have the love and the passion for the game and if I’m still able to contribute to something bigger than me, then I’ll be here for as long as I can.”
While Wickham says he’s not looking at putting more silverware on the mantlepiece just yet, it’s difficult to contain his enthusiasm ahead of a season which promises so much. In 2022, the Thundersticks ended the men’s regular season in third before upsetting Canberra Chill en route to finishing runners-up.
Following a season which saw them finish so near, yet so far, Wickham is confident his side can go one better in 2023.
“I think we can,” he says. “We lost one [Grand Final] last year and it was a really tight game with New South Wales Pride. Some of our younger boys have another year under their belt, so they’re a little more experienced and they’re better for playing in the Grand Final last year.
“I think our team’s more experienced across the board as well. We’ve got some good senior heads in the team, so I think we can [win it] – we’ve got a pretty strong team.
“At the end of the day you could throw a blanket over probably four or five teams in the competition who are going to really give it a nudge.”
First assignment for the Thundersticks is a home match against the side they beat in last year’s semi-finals, Canberra Chill. In their regular season match, the Chill scored a 4-2 win before Perth turned the tables in emphatic fashion when it counted most, scoring six unanswered goals to put the result in no doubt before eventually triumphing 6-3.
Canberra found it difficult to recover for their third place playoff, going down by four goals to finish in fourth despite having lost just one regular season match.
While last year’s result is in the past, Wickham knows Canberra will be seeking revenge on Saturday and the importance of scoring competition points from the outset is crucial.
“The ability to rock up game one against last year’s semi-final team will be huge,” said Wickham. “We’re not taking them lightly – every game is really important.
“You want to take maximum points so you don’t want to be dropping points with draws and having to win a shootout.”
With all matches of the JDH Hockey One League available to stream live and free on 7plus, Wickham says it is a great opportunity for hockey and sports fans to have unrivalled access to one of the highest quality competitions anywhere in the world.
“This level of hockey, it’s just under that international level and at international level it can become a bit of a chess match. Although the skill level is incredible, it can sometimes be underappreciated because you don’t get to see all the exciting, flashy things that come with a more open-style format like Hockey One,” he said.
“Having more eyes on the exciting skilful athletes, players and teams is only good for our sport.”
The Perth Thundersticks open their 2023 JDH Hockey One campaign on Saturday against Canberra Chill at Perth Hockey Stadium in Curtin University.
The women’s match will commence at 3:30pm AWST / 6:30pm AEDT followed by the men at 5pm AWST / 8pm AEDT.