TWO of the Shoalhaven’s brightest young hockey players recently returned from a whirlwind trip that saw them take on the Fiji national team.
Alex Mackay and Nick Jennings, both 20-years-old, travelled to Fiji on December 13 as a part of the Australian Country under 21s team to play a three test match series against the Fiji national under 21s team.
Although the competition was fierce, another element the men had to battle was the change in climate.
“Hockey is a winter sport, so playing in Nowra, Wollongong and Sydney, it doesn’t get too hot,” said Mackay.
“But over there it was about 42 degrees on the field and 30 to 35 degrees off the field which was quite challenging to start with. But after four or five games we started to get used to it.”
The Australian team had a few lead up games before they launched into the three match series against Fiji.
In the first match Australia went down 2-1, but Mackay said it was a close game with some unlucky decisions not going their way.
“We were probably 14 short corners to their none and we had 40 or 50 circle penalties to their five, and they only scored with a few minutes to go,” he said.
“To their credit they did defend well, we were just unlucky, we couldn’t find the back of the net,” he said.
In the second match the teams were only on the field for 15 minutes before the game was stopped due to lightning.
As Australia was 1-nil up, Fiji decided to forfeit and declare Australia the winners.
A reasonable crowd gathered for the third game grand final, where Mackay was elected captain for the match.
Unfortunately for Australia the third game played out a lot like the first, and Australia went down 3-nil.
“After the game no one was too happy but that is just the way it is,” Mackay said.
“Credit to them, they played well and defended well, but it was disappointing for us.”
Jennings said he did not believe he played his best in Fiji, but he enjoyed the experience, especially being selected as a part of the leadership team.
“I was really surprised because I was at a training session one day and the coach pulled me aside and said ‘have you thought about it?’ I didn’t even think I was on it to be honest,” he laughed.
Jennings said the international matches meant he learnt to adapt to different styles of play, although he was disappointed they could not take home a win.
“Playing for your country and losing a game always stings, especially when you only do it once a year, so I was pretty shattered,” he said.
Jennings will soon start pre-season training for Moorebank Liverpool for the winter hockey season.
He will also play for the NSW under 21s squad, University of Wollongong and hopes to get a few games in the Shoalhaven competition.
Mackay said he is still undecided as to where he will play this year.