BY KATE ALLMAN
Defending premiers the NSW Pride will take the turf for the first time this year against a red-hot Brisbane Blaze. Friday night lights sees the return of league superstars, and the Tassie Tigers will stretch their claws in Canberra – the venue of the Hockey One finals in November.
Here are the biggest excitements in round two of JDH Hockey One.
Friday – HC Melbourne vs Adelaide Fire
The most valuable player of the 2022 women’s season was a huge out for HC Melbourne last week. This week, however, Hockeyroo Amy Lawton will return to play in her club’s highly anticipated first home match of the season.
Lawton was sorely missed in HC Melbourne’s narrow 1-0 victory over the Tassie Tigers in round one. Despite dominating across the pitch, the Melbourne women couldn’t seem to find the net – earning 13 penalty corners and putting away just one. Lawton’s speed and skill on the ball may be the crucial addition for Melbourne to break lines, counter-attack and set up valuable field goal opportunities.
At the back, Australia’s most-capped female goalkeeper and former FIH international goalkeeper of the year, Rachael Lynch, will pad up for the first time this season. Her long-time Hockeyroo teammate Jane Claxton will also take the turf for opponents Adelaide Fire in the star-studded clash.
The Fire had a wobbly start to the season, with dual losses against Brisbane Blaze women and men in round one. However, already the winless men already have a bit of extra spark about them. The addition of former Kookaburra veteran Kieran Govers adds depth of experience. Govers will play alongside the exciting “Hollywood” antics of youngster Jack Jolland, Fred Gray and Matthew Magann, who all showed promise last week despite the heavy loss to Brisbane.
Adelaide Men are still searching for their first win in Hockey One history.
Saturday – Brisbane Blaze v NSW Pride
Saturday night’s alright for dancing; but it’s best for watching JDH Hockey One. Head down to Queensland State Hockey Centre or tune in on 7Plus because you won’t want to miss this.
The massive clash between defending premiers NSW Pride, and 2023 favourites Brisbane Blaze, is easily the match-up of the round. Both clubs are stacked with likely Paris Olympians, and both boast an arsenal of scoring weapons.
The big news for Brisbane is the Hockey One debut of Tokyo Olympian Steph Kershaw, a player who The Shootout’s Simon Orchard has identified as one of the most promising talents in the international arena. Rebecca Greiner also returns to Blaze turf for the first time this season, fresh off the Hockeyroos’ Commonwealth Games silver medal campaign last year. Greiner has a history of hunting goals and was the leading scorer in the 2018 Australian Hockey League (AHL).
The women’s match is a replay of the 2022 grand final. Meanwhile, the men’s looks a likely forecast to this year’s grand final.
Brisbane Blaze men looked unstoppable last week and dunked double digits on Adelaide Fire in their 10-2 win away last week. Kookaburra Jacob Anderson became the leading league goal scorer so far, clunking four on his own. Alongside him, Cale Cramer was up to his old hat-tricks and young gun Diarmid Chappell also announced himself to the competition, scoring three in his first match.
But if anyone can douse the Blaze, it’s NSW. Elite ball skills pair with electric speed in names like Nathan Czinner, Daine Richards, and Flynn Ogilvie. The headline act for the Pride is Blake Govers – Australia’s number one drag-flicker and among the best in the world at the set piece. Govers could be the strongest test that Blaze goalkeeper Mitch Nicholson has faced yet.
Sunday – Canberra Chill vs Tassie Tigers
The two cold-climate clubs are unlikely to bring chilled-out attitudes to this Sunday afternoon match.
Both Canberra Chill and Tassie Tigers are winless so far this season, and both rearing to notch their first points on the leaderboard.
Hayden Beltz is a big in for the men’s match after he was unavailable in Tassie’s first round defeat to HC Melbourne. Beltz dons the captain’s band and brings power, presence and a directing ability to open up the midfield. He’s the kind of leader that could be the glue between regular stars Jeremy Hayward, Tim Deavin and Jeremy Edwards.
Speaking of power and presence, 196cm Indian international Rupinder Pal Singh could almost block out the sun. That’s according to Chill men’s coach Seyi Onitiri, who was unable to rally Singh and the rest of his troops to bring home a round one win against Perth. Singh showed glimpses of genius but needs to find ways to set up his midfielders and strikers further down the field.
The Tassie Tigers women appear to be sharing the goalkeeping around. That’s despite number one keeper Evie Dalton proving she can stop just about any shot against a barrage from HC Melbourne last week. This week, she will be rested to give Cami Vaughan a go in the net. Tassie will also debut Queensland import Jade Smith for the first time since she made the trade south. Smith has played in the under 21 Jillaroos for Australia and will take the pitch alongside returning captain Sarah McCambridge.
Off the turf, Canberra Chill are less than 40 memberships away from becoming the first Hockey One club to hit 1000 members. If you’re heading to the National Hockey Centre this weekend, consider becoming part of history from just $60 for adults. That includes entry to all three matches, plus a hat, scarf and lanyard. At that price you can’t afford not to.