All eyes will be on HC Melbourne and the Brisbane Blaze this weekend as the two men’s teams go head-to-head at Melbourne Sports Centre – Parkville in what is shaping to be a striker showdown.
The two teams currently sit in the top four equal with the Tassie Tigers on 10 points (below league leaders NSW Pride) on the JDH Hockey One ladder, the Blaze in second with HC Melbourne in fourth on goal difference.
The match will also feature the top two goal scorers this season – Kookaburras teammates Jacob Anderson (Brisbane Blaze) and Nathan Ephraums (HC Melbourne).
Both will be out to add to their tally tomorrow night in a match that is crucial in the context of the season.
Ephraums struck twice in HC Melbourne’s impressive 6-2 win over the Perth Thundersticks last weekend and he could well have had more if he had been successful with either of his conversion opportunities.
Brisbane Blaze is coming off a 5-0 drubbing of the Tassie Tigers meaning there will be no shortage of fireworks in both attacking circles tomorrow night.
“This weekend we’ll be focusing on playing with freedom and confidence as well as working hard as a unit. We know we’re capable of the win so will make sure we push for it,” said Ephraums.
“Playing in front of a home crowd is also a real highlight for all the boys. It’s always awesome to come back and play in front of family and friends, and it’s a great chance to connect with younger players from Melbourne.”
Ephraums’ goal-scoring abilities extend well beyond field goal territory, with the established international player prepared for any situation that might come his way.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself on the end of a few goals so far this season which has been great, but I’ve also left a couple out there in the conversions,” said Ephraums.
“Goals are obviously important but all we’ll be focusing on is to keep creating those scoring opportunities. If the opportunities are there then hopefully goals will follow.
“For me, shootouts are about having a plan and being confident in it, and Melbourne will be ready for the situation if it arises.”
“Everyone has their own technique but I think it’s important to plan the way you’ll set the goalie up in order to create space for your shot, and then also have a plan for what you could do if they are good enough to counter it.
Having performed impressively in the inaugural Hockey One season in 2019, Ephraums was an established name on the radar of national selectors. After a solid year in the National Development Squad, 23-year-old Ephraums was elevated to Kookaburra status before being selected as the youngest player on the squad for the 2022 Commonwealth Games campaign.
He returned home with a gold medal and having scored two goals in the Final.
“The Commonwealth Games was my first major tournament and the experience of playing with the national team and being in the village was unreal. We had a great time as a group and finishing with the gold medal will forever be a highlight of my career,” he said.
“The experience I gained from the tournament helped me grow as a player, and I think reminiscing on those moments just highlights how important it is to enjoy the games and tournaments you get the privilege to play in, which is something we are also trying to do with HC Melbourne.”
Now with more than 50 caps for Australia, Ephraums is striving hard to achieve his Olympic dream.
“Olympic selection is definitely a goal of mine. I’m focusing on working hard and playing the best version of hockey I can so that by the time August comes around, I’ll be lucky enough to contribute to a gold medal-winning Kookaburras side if all goes well.
Away from the Hockey pitch, Ephraums runs a reusable cup business named Daily Iced with his partner, having graduated with a Bachelor of Business/Marketing from Monash University a few years ago.
The women’s match of the double header between HC Melbourne and Brisbane Blaze starts at 6.30pm, with the men’s match to follow at 8pm.