Kaitlin Nobbs is no stranger to pressure. With a hockey CV that includes two Commonwealth Games and an Olympic Games, she knows what it takes to perform at the highest level.
Genetics and family guidance help too. Her father Michael Nobbs is a 1984 Olympian, her mother Lee Capes is a gold medallist from Seoul 1988 and her uncle Mark Hager won bronze in Atlanta in 1996.
Nobbs’ NSW Pride teammates know how to handle the heat too. Having come from behind to secure a draw in the 2022 Hockey One Grand Final, the Pride ended up on top in the shootout to lift the trophy.
What that result has done, however, is draw a target clearly on the back of the NSW Pride jerseys.
For Nobbs, it places her in a unique position given she missed the last Hockey One League season, playing for HC Klein Zwitserland in the Netherlands. Coming back to play for the state she grew up in, alongside many of her teammates from junior hockey, she knows the side is in a vastly different position to one they found themselves in last year.
“From what the girls were saying, I think they preferred being the underdog,” said Nobbs.
“They felt like that last year so it was quite a bit easier to play without the stress of that. It’s always easier to play a bit more freely when you’re the underdogs.
“But this season is different – we’ve got a new coach, Scotty Barker who is really relaxed. He’s given us a bit of a platform to try and play as freely as possible even with that pressure of being defending champions.”
Whatever Barker has instilled in the squad, it seems to be clicking immediately. After a bye in the opening round, the Pride women opened up a 3-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes against Brisbane Blaze (the team they beat in last year’s grand final) and they were never headed as they got their title defence underway in the best way possible.
“It was really good,” said Nobbs. “It was obviously the first time the team had played as a ‘team’ as well because half of us are based in Perth…but it was really fun. All the girls are great so it was easy to just come into the team and play together.
“A lot of us have played juniors together so it was a really good game.”
Having set up a life in Perth where she trains in the national Hockeyroos setup (“I’ve got a job and a dog there!”), Nobbs – like many other Hockeyroos and Kookaburras playing Hockey One – is juggling commitments while still aiming to contribute to a successful campaign with the Pride.
With national players spread throughout the league, and having played at the highest level of the game, Nobbs is impressed by the quality of the hockey required to be successful in the JDH Hockey One League.
“Brisbane are arguably one of the fiercest teams and the standard was really high,” she said.
“We share a fair number of the national players across both of our teams, so based on game one the standard is at a cracking level.”
Returning to the pitch she has played on countless times in her career this Sunday, Nobbs is excited by the prospect of taking on HC Melbourne at home.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “I’ll have family and friends up in the stands so I’m really excited to play our first home match and I think it’s just going to be even more comfortable knowing that we’ve all played a game together and we’re back playing in our familiar environment.”
The women’s and men’s double header between NSW Pride and HC Melbourne is on Sunday afternoon at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre. The women’s match starts at 1:30pm AEDT followed by the men at 3pm.