Canberra will host the finals series of the 2023 JDH Hockey One League and the hometown teams will be hoping to play a major part in what will be one of the biggest occasions for the sport prior to Paris 2024.
For Canberra Chill men’s captain, Jake Staines, the memories of last season’s finals series are not ones he’d like to repeat. Canberra finished the regular season in second with just one loss, before back-to-back defeats in Bendigo saw them place fourth overall.
If there is one thing to savour about last year’s run, their only regular season loss came in their opening game, with the team continuing to build week to week.
With last year’s Player of the League Andrew Charter out injured and a number of new players in the squad, last week’s round one loss to Perth did have a silver lining in that it has given the Chill far more direction as to how they need to connect and how they interact with their new lineup in a real-game situation.
“I think we’ve learnt a lot about how we want to play,” said Staines, who plays alongside twin brother Ben. “We learned a lot about one another.
“The imports, no one knew how they played – obviously heard a lot about them but just didn’t know. Monday was a good session, conversations were had about the weekend, so I hope there’s improvements.”
Those imports Staines refers to are Spanish defender Jaume Torras and Indian fullback Rupinder Pal Singh, one of the most accomplished drag-flickers in the sport and an Olympic bronze medallist from Tokyo.
“The internationals both bring really good qualities,” said Staines. “Jaume is such a good tackler and distributes it as soon as he gets it.
“Rupinder’s passing range is pretty impressive and he’s lethal on a corner, and the kicker to go along with it is they’re such nice blokes.”
Having already made the longest road trip of the season, the Chill are back in Canberra for their first home game of the season. The National Hockey Centre proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Chill in 2022, winning all three matches played at the venue.
For Staines, who grew up and still resides in Goulburn just an hour up the Hume Highway, it provides an opportunity to play in front of family and friends as well as a passionate hockey community in the nation’s capital.
“We love playing in Canberra,” said Staines. “It’s so close to Goulburn where I’m obviously from so it takes absolutely nothing for the Goulburn crowd to come over and it’s just good to see the Canberra locals
“They give you such a warm welcome.”
With the JDH Hockey One League presenting a fast-paced season where points are at a premium from the outset, Staines knows this week’s match against Tassie Tigers is a match both sides will be desperate to win after first-up defeats.
“You want to be winning games early,” he said. “You can’t lose or draw the first three and then start improving because it’s too late by then. Winning early games makes a helluva difference, I reckon.
If the Chill can get their season on track in week two and continue on the path they did in 2022, Staines believes the opportunity to play a finals series on home turf would present a wonderful spectacle for the sport.
“It’d be pretty incredible – you’d get a good roll-up there, I reckon! Pretty good location and the complex is unreal there.”
The Canberra Chill play their first home game of the 2023 JDH Hockey One League against Tassie Tigers on Sunday afternoon at the National Hockey Centre in Lyneham ACT.
The men’s match will commence at 2pm AEDT followed by the women at 3:30pm AEDT.