Twelve matches. Twelve losses. That was the record for the Adelaide Fire men’s team entering the JDH Hockey One League 2023 Season.
This year’s campaign then started with a 10-2 loss to a rampant Brisbane Blaze in and it looked like it could be another tough season for the South Australian side.
However, their 13th straight match without a win proved to be anything but unlucky, with the Fire coming from behind in the dying stages to pull off a miraculous win against HC Melbourne last Friday.
Down 2-0, the Fire got on the board right on three-quarter time but there was plenty of drama still to unfold.
With just 3:13 left on the clock, excitement machine Jack Holland tied the game before scoring again with just 14 seconds remaining to create history for the Fire.
“Once we were able to hang in there for half a game and then we scored that goal, I think we got a bit of belief which was good,” said Holland.
“We showed in the first quarter against Brisbane that we can perform at that level and once we were hanging in for longer and longer in the Melbourne game we thought ‘we can match it with these guys’, snag results and be competitive.
“It’s pretty exciting for everyone to have that belief.”
Holland has tasted international hockey at Under 21 level and has trained with the Kookaburras as a member of the National Development Squad along with teammate Fred Gray.
The pair are part of a Fire squad which has been strengthened by the addition of veteran Kookaburra Kieran Govers along with some quality foreign talent who have all brought a unique quality to the playing group.
“We’ve got Jethro [Eustice] who’s played for South Africa, Peter [Scott] who’s played for Great Britain, Charl [Ulrich] who’s played for New Zealand and I played against Fraser [Heigh, Great Britain] in Malaysia at the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup,” said Holland.
“It’s really interesting how all the different countries go about it, and the training environment has gone up so much since they got involved.
“They’ve boosted the environment, the culture – everything. It has been so beneficial. It has been a great move by Hockey SA to try and get as many players like that involved.”
The addition of Govers has been particularly powerful for Holland, whose ‘box office’ dynamism has earned him the moniker ‘Hollywood’. The pair’s style of play is not dissimilar and the presence Govers brings to the game is something Holland would like to emulate.
“Kieran had a lot to say amongst the group but he’s also had moments when he’s spoken to me,” said Holland.
“Everyone knows the way he likes to play hockey is to be aggressive, put teams under pressure and that’s definitely the way I like to play – fast and press hard.
“After the game against Brisbane I had a good chat to him about how we wanted to play and some little tweaks to our pressing and with the ball. I definitely love the way he goes about it and the way he likes to play.”
Coming into Round 3 and a home game against the winless Canberra Chill, Holland says the Fire are keen to show last week’s breakthrough win was not a flash in the pan and that they have the ability to remain in every contest week in, week out.
“As a team, we don’t want to win just one game,” said Holland. “We want to be competitive and try and win as many games as possible, especially since we’ve got a better line-up this year.
“We’ve had a big focus about being a team that SA can be proud of, so I think when we get our opportunities in front of the home crowd, it’s the perfect opportunity to try and make that happen.
“Every time we can play at home, everyone gets fired up. We did have that tough loss in Round 1 at home so I think there’s a bit more fight from everyone to be a team that everyone can be proud of.”
Adelaide Fire play their second home game of the JDH Hockey One League 2023 Season against Canberra Chill on Saturday night at MATE Stadium.
The women’s match begins at 6pm AEST (6:30pm AEDT) followed by the men at 7:30pm AEST (8pm AEDT).