A historic state rivalry will see a new chapter written when Canberra Chill and NSW Pride battle it out for bragging rights in a decisive JDH Hockey One League double header on Saturday.
Former Hockeyroo and Canberra Chill captain Naomi Evans is no stranger to the added spice that comes when ACT and NSW teams come up against each other.
“A lot of us grew up in NSW and moved to Canberra when we were a bit older, so we’re pretty excited for this weekend’s game as there’s always a bit of a rivalry there,” said Evans.
“We’re going into the game feeling confident. We played them in a few trial games earlier this year, so we’ve had some experience coming up against them and know what to expect.
“We’re still fine tuning our structure, but we’ve been working on building those connections between the lines and we’re feeling ready.
“They’re obviously a quality team but if we’re on our game and at our best we will absolutely bring it to them.”
With Round 4 marking the halfway mark of the regular season, Canberra Chill are determined to make the most of their hometown advantage.
“Canberra people, regardless of the time or weather always show up for us and that’s something that’s so awesome about the city,” said Evans.
“We’re a close community and people show up for both the men and the women, so we’re all excited to be playing another home game especially against NSW.
“Playing at home is an awesome advantage for us, you can’t go past the support.
“The plan is to make a home final and hopefully win the whole thing but regardless, we’re stoked we’re in Canberra this week.”
For Evans, this weekend’s game presents another opportunity to play with her sister, striker Mikayla.
In fact, Saturday’s clash will be almost an exact remake of the first national level game the pair played together four years ago, taking place against the same opponents and at the same venue.
“My sister and I grew up in NSW and played our first hockey at Drifters Hockey Club in Goulburn, a small town about an hour away from Canberra,” said Evans.
“Goulburn is really supportive of any and all local people who play hockey, so there’s always lots of support from back home when we play in Canberra which is great.”
“My sister and I play in the same club team as well as at the Canberra Chill, and I always really love playing with her…I don’t take it for granted that we get the chance to.
“We have this connection where we don’t really need to talk, we just know where each other are going to be and trust each other to get the job done, so it’s always quite exciting to play with her.”
Evans is confident that the Chill will deliver, noting that this year’s cohort is one of the best groups she has been a part of during her three years playing in the league.
“We’ve got a balance of older and younger players and also some international experience in our team this year too,” said Evans.
“The group is gelling well and it’s a good culture. Everyone wants to be there and have fun. There’s definitely some good talent coming through so I’m really excited to see how the girls go in a few years.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Evans is excited for the future of hockey in Australia with the JDH Hockey One League forging its way into the national sporting landscape.
“I’ve had people from the school where I work come up to me and say they saw a highlight on the news or that they saw me play, and they are people that don’t really have an association with the sport, so I love that,” said Evans.
Gates at the National Hockey Centre open at 2pm AEDT on Saturday, with the women’s match starting at 3pm followed by the men’s at 4:30pm.