From Countryside to Countrywide, the Thundersticks players’ journey to the top

The Perth Thundersticks showed all of Australia that they are a force to be reckoned with in this year’s JDH Hockey One season after three weeks of competition.

Not only have they showcased Perth’s local hockey talent, but they also represented the hockey talent of regional WA, with many of the squad’s members hailing from our state’s rural towns.

Thundersticks and Kookaburras staple of many years, Aran Zalewski, began his illustrious hockey journey the moment he could hold a hockey stick.

“My old man was into hockey, so as soon as I could hold a stick, he cut one of his old sticks in half for me to run around with and we just went from there,” he said.

Then, as soon as Zalewski was eligible to play, he was carving up the muddy fields of Margaret River Hockey Club.

Despite the monumental list of his career achievements he has accumulated, Zalewski says the memories he has of playing in the mud in regional towns surrounding Margaret River are still among some of his favourites.

“I will always remember that one Saturday morning when Mum picked me up from a game, I was covered head to toe in mud, and she drove next to me as I walked all the way home.” he said.

“Whenever I encounter failures or setbacks, I think (back to) those memories, they make me the happiest.”

Zalewski said he is able to express and feel the most himself when he is playing hockey, which his regional sporting community gave him the opportunity to do.

Zalewski played an instrumental role in the Thundersticks’ win on the weekend, as he does in all of team’s successes.

This, he humbly credits to the love of the game, and his Margaret River roots who helped to light that fire within him.

“Hockey, and sport in general, is super important in regional towns – it binds the town and creates a great sense of community,” he said.

Alistair Murray, originally from Wickepin Hockey Club in WA’s Wheatbelt region, shares Aran’s passion for regional hockey representation and involvement, highlighting the game’s unique ability to bring people together, much like he experienced at his own home turf.

“We had just one grass field which doubled as footy oval,” he said.

“No changerooms or anything, (we’d) just stand on the sidelines – but I loved it.”

Murray’s hockey journey was inspired by his family ties in the game, with his grandfather also playing for the Thundersticks in the 1960s.

His personal love for hockey began during his very first game in which he scored his first goal, taking the team’s winning score to a staggering 16-0.

Since then, Murray has represented his regional roots in the Perth Thundersticks, Under-21 Australian side (the Burras) and the Australian Youth Olympic Games Team, but he says he will always be grateful for where he started.

In the women’s side, 2023 Perth Thundersticks debutant, 20-year-old Belle Ramshaw, showcased her hockey prowess after she scored a penalty corner goal against the Chill.

Ramshaw is also among the players who herald from regional WA.

Ramshaw made her start at Collie Rovers Hockey Club, where at times she would travel up to two and a half hours each way just to play one game.

With her family and the community in Collie as her base, Ramshaw has represented WA in their Under-13, Under-18 and Under-21 State Teams, and represented Australia in the Jillaroo’s National Junior Team.

The remaining regional-born players include:

Josh Bowen – originally from Casuals Hockey Club in Geraldton, 424 kilometres north of Perth

Brayden King – originally from Murchison Hockey Club, 300 kilometres northeast of Geraldton.

Pippa Morgan – originally from Kondinin Hockey Club 279 kilometres east Perth in the Wheatbelt region.

Penny Squibb – originally from Tambellup Hockey Club, 317 km south-east of Perth.

Jake & Tom Harvie – originally from Boyanup Hockey Club, 186km south of Perth.

Anna Roberts – originally from Capel, 196km south of Perth.

Georgina Dowd – originally from Harvey, 138km south of Perth.

See the WA’s regional talent on display again on Sunday 29 October when the Perth Thundersticks take on Hockey Club Melbourne at Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University. Tickets on sale now.