Having solidified themselves as a contender for the JDH Hockey One League 2023 title with back-to-back wins, the Brisbane Blaze take on fellow finals aspirant Canberra Chill in a genuine Friday night blockbuster.
Both Brisbane Blaze teams are currently sitting second on their respective leaderboards, with recent dominant displays over HC Melbourne and the Tassie Tigers meaning wins over the Chill will see them cement their place at the Finals Main Event.
The Brisbane Blaze women’s team is planning to use its momentum to propel them into the finals in top form.
Hockeyroo star Steph Kershaw, who is playing in her first Hockey One season, is loving being back on the national stage.
Kershaw missed the inaugural season in 2019 due to a knee injury and was playing club hockey in the Netherlands during last year’s Hockey One campaign.
“I’m pumped for Friday…it’s going to be a massive game. Canberra has had some good wins and beaten some strong teams, so we know it’s going to be a challenge,” said Kershaw.
“Canberra has some really good, strong players and obviously they want to make finals, so I think the first quarter will be especially intense. If we can get on top quickly that will help us.
“It’s hard to ignore what the outcome of a game will mean at this point in the season, but we’re really focusing on the here and now and the process.”
After missing some of the earlier matches due to university commitments, Kershaw returned to the pitch last weekend, scoring one of the goals of the week when she blasted a tomahawk into the top left corner and then successfully nailed the resultant conversion.
Now a Perth local, Kershaw is thrilled to be playing in her first season in the JDH Hockey One League, having battled injury and clashing European competitive commitments in recent years.
“Playing for the Blaze in the Hockey One league this season has been a constant reminder for me of why I love hockey,” said Kershaw.
“The time I get to spend in Brisbane with the girls and the staff is amazing and always a really good experience. It’s a great motivator for me to want to travel from Perth to play with this team.
“I’ve been playing in Europe recently and really enjoyed the community aspect of their club hockey league. The Blaze have really focused on that this year which has been fantastic, putting on awesome home game experiences for the fans and integrating us a lot more with the men’s team – they’ve built a really positive atmosphere.”
“Queensland has such a depth of hockey talent, there are so many teams and players that are super exciting to watch.”
Growing up in Townsville, hockey was a passion for Kershaw from a young age. Now, with more than 100 caps for the Hockeyroos as well as an array of medals, Kershaw has her heart set on Paris 2024.
“For such a small city, Townsville has a big hockey community, and it was such a great place to get involved in the sport,” said Kershaw.
“I spent so much time at hockey and everyone was so nice, welcoming and supportive. I just played for the love of it for a long time and I really enjoyed all the different components, that you had to be fast, fit and skillful.
“The Hockeyroos came to Townsville when I was a junior and I got to see that there was a pathway for girls in hockey and it really confirmed for me that hockey was what I wanted to do.
“Now having been in the Hockeyroos squad I live for Olympic years, I think they’re so much fun. They are a bit of a challenge but I think the reason so many of us play sport is for the challenge, so I’m super excited. It’s definitely something that is on my mind a lot.”
Catch Steph and the Brisbane Blaze as they take on Canberra Chill in the penultimate round of the season at the National Hockey Centre in Canberra tomorrow night from 6.30pm AEDT. The men’s match will follow at 8pm. LIVE and free on 7plus. Tickets are available through Intix.