Perth Hockey Stadium is sure to be set alight this weekend as the Perth Thundersticks get set to open their 2023 Hockey One campaign with a sizzling double-header against Canberra Chill.
The Thundersticks’ season opener on Saturday 7 October is made all the more exciting with a potential secret weapon in the form of former Canberra Chill great James Day donning the WA kit for the first time.
James Day moved to the West from ACT five years ago, playing and dominating for Melville City Hockey Club, scoring 36 goals for the Men’s Premier Division 1 side this year alone.
In his 2022 Hockey One season with the Canberra Chill, Day scored a total of 8 goals – all from penalty corners – making him the competition’s fifth-highest goal-scorer, behind Thundersticks’ own Tom Wickham who racked up 9 goals.
Day’s connection to Canberra and his bond with his teammates in the Chill was enough to continue travelling East each season. However, with the travel becoming increasingly difficult to managed and the draw of the Thundersticks, he is excited to make his debut into the team.
“Canberra is obviously a smaller state, and with WA being such a big hockey state, the Thundersticks are a powerhouse of hockey,” he said.
“We have always considered them one of the ones to beat, so it was good (for the Chill) to get a win over them when we could.”
Day admits that the Thundersticks have a different game style, environment and team structure from what he had been used to playing with Canberra, but is excited and ready to take on the challenge the team has to offer.
“I have good mates in the Canberra team, so it will be different playing against them rather than for them,” he said.
“They’ve got some new players in there too, so I expect their style will evolve with the team.
“They’re going to be tough to play against, I’m just hoping I can carry over my form from last season and play the best I can.”
He congratulated the Thundersticks on their silver medal win last season, admitting the Chill’s semi-final loss against them was a gut-wrenching feeling, but shares the Thundersticks’ hunger to go one better this season.
“I’m just keen to see if we can win it this year,” he said.
Not only does Saturday offer Perth hockey fans the Hockey One season-opening match and Day’s Thundersticks debut, it also marks Indian International superstar Rupinder Pal Singh’s first game for the Canberra Chill.
Widely known as one of the best drag flickers in the world, Singh has represented India on the international stage in two Olympic Games, as well as two Commonwealth Games, leading his team from the front with his role as vice-captain.
While in the Australian A side, Day was able to play against the Indian team, including taking on Singh.
He acknowledged that it will be immensely tough to play against the drag-flicking afficionado, but that he is looking forward to being on the field with him once again.
“If he’s anything like what he was back then, he’ll be drag-flicking the ball pretty hard,” Day joked.
Throughout his career, Singh has totalled a remarkable 119 goals, in his 220 international appearances for India and will be a massive addition to the Hockey One league.
The last time the Chill and the Thundersticks met was in round 5 of the season at Canberra’s National Hockey Centre.
The women’s team emerged victorious, besting the home team 3-1, with a thrilling field goal and goal conversion in the first 2 minutes from young gun Georgina Dowd, and an effortless penalty corner goal from Penny Squibb.
When the men’s team met the Chill last year, they suffered a tough 4-2 defeat, with goals from Tom Wickham and Matt Willis. However, a barrage of goals from Will Battistessa, Brodee Foster, Cam Geddes, as well as a hat-trick from Wickham saw them enact revenge with 6-3 semi-final win.
Witness the opening whistle of what is sure to be the Thundersticks’ most thrilling season yet, Saturday October 7 from 6:30pm at Perth Hockey Stadium.
Purchase your Thundersticks tickets via Intix.