A top of the table women’s clash will light up Perth Hockey Stadium on Sunday when HC Melbourne and the Perth Thundersticks go head-to-head in what is shaping up as the ultimate mid-season showdown.
Both currently undefeated, the women’s teams have each delivered several impressive performances this season, positioning themselves at the top of the points ladder going into Round 4.
For Olivia Downes and HC Melbourne, their undefeated season includes a penalty shootout triumph over the 2022 Champions (NSW Pride) last weekend, with the team planning to build on their momentum leading into the second half of the regular season.
“Perth have a very good team and have looked very slick the last couple of weeks, so I think the game this weekend will be a really good challenge for the girls,” said Downes.
“We played well in Sydney so I’m really excited to keep building on that and play another competitive game.
“We’re obviously expecting Perth to be good, so for us this weekend it will be about building on what we did well last week and tightening up those areas where we can improve.”
Downes, who made her Hockeyroos debut against India in Adelaide earlier this year, says it will be important to make the most of scoring opportunities this weekend, especially with the team travelling west.
“Making sure we can put the ball in the back of the net whenever we get the opportunity will be super important, regardless of whether it’s from penalty corners or field goals. We also need to make sure that if we score a field goal, we also score the conversion,” said Downes.
HC Melbourne is serious about redemption this season having finished shy of the title in the first two seasons.
“The biggest thing we’ve been focusing on is really connecting as a group,” said Downes.
“We’ve got a strong leadership group and everyone else just contributes 100 percent.
“You go to training with your best friends every week, and we all really support each other and get around each other. I think that’s the biggest thing moving forward to help us play our best hockey, continuing to translate those off-field connections to our on-field game.”
With world class players across the league in 2023, Downes says it’s ‘pretty special’ to compete and test herself week in, week out.
“The skillset of some of the girls we play against is just crazy,” said Downes.
“We see it every week playing with Amy Lawton, she’s an absolute gun and some of the things she does are just insane.”
“The other great aspect of playing on the same field is learning from them, seeing what they can do and taking in as much as you can. It’s great to challenge yourself and aspire to their level.
“I remember I was terrified during my first game last year that I didn’t touch the ball for the whole first quarter, so having that extra year of experience has been helpful. I
“It has also been good to get around the new girls who are in their first season because obviously I went through that last year, so that’s been awesome and rewarding too.
“Short term, I’m aiming to play my best hockey and I think everyone plays their best when they’re having fun. I’m all about the process at the moment, going out there and hopefully winning games with the girls but just generally continuing to develop as a hockey player.”
The women’s match between the Perth Thundersticks and HC Melbourne starts at 1:30pm AWST (4:30pm AEDT) on Sunday, with the men’s match to follow at 3pm AWST (6pm AEDT).