THEY’VE both had talent graduate into the Australian set-up in recent years and on the weekend the Northern Inland and Hunter Academies of Sport hockey squads teamed up for a weekend of training and games.
The HAS brought both its boys and girls’ squads up to Tamworth in what was something of a return visit after the NIAS squads travelled down there a couple of years ago.
It was a good opportunity for the coaches from both academies to assess how their squads are coming along and get some match practice.
“I hope it becomes a regular thing,” NIAS assistant boys coach Tim Hardy said.
The squads trained together on Saturday and then played each other in games in the afternoon and on Sunday.
“It tells us where we are at, especially fitness-wise,” Hardy said.
“Player-wise, we’re lucky we’ve got some talented players.”
The weekend showed there is work to do fitness-wise.
“We should be at a better level than what we’re at, especially coming into the pre-season,” Hardy said.
The squads performed well in the games though, with the boys winning 9-0 and 7-2 and the girls 3-1 and 4-0.
That augurs well for the Academy Games coming up in April, which the coaches had in the back of their minds watching on.
“The pinnacle for the guys is the Academy Games,” Hunter head coach Nate Butterfield said.
“We’re using this as a selection weekend for that.”
The HAS covers an area from the Central Coast up to Taree and inland to Scone.
Over the years, it has produced several Australian representatives and, like NIAS with Kate Jenner, had a former scholarship holder playing in the London Olympics.
Kookaburras star Simon Orchard is a recent graduate.
This year’s intake is “a good four months” into its program.
“We’re building well,” Butterfield said.
“We’re trying a lot of new things.”
One of those things is monitoring the load path of the players.
In some cases, they’ve got athletes training with state and national sides and involved in state development programs through the NSW Institute of Sport, on top of academy and club
It’s important that they’re not being overloaded.
They’ve also brought in a lot more specialists this year.
There’s been a strong fitness aspect and they’ve had strength and conditioning coaches coming in and working with the players.
“We’ve bought in specialist sprint coaches,” Butterfield said. “Teaching the kids how to run.
“We’ve had nutritionists come in and talk to them.
“We’ve even had an inocular specialist.”
They spoke to the players about things like peripheral vision.
The weekend was good to see whether those changes are making a difference.