SHE’S one of their current stars but on the weekend Kate Jenner got a first-hand look at some of NSW’s future stars.
The Tamworth Olympian was home for a brief visit and attended at the annual Catalyst Money City v Country challenge.
The tournament is a stepping stone to state selection, and has been the starting point of many a players’ careers.
Jenner played in it herself, although only the once.
“I actually had to play for City,” she recalled.
It was when there was an U21s division and just after she had moved to Sydney.
Another interested observer was new Hockey NSW chief executive Tony Mestrov.
It was the former Manly and South Sydney first grader’s first time in Tamworth in a hockey capacity, and he was impressed by what he saw, especially the facilities.
“I wish we had more of these facilities,” he said.
He also noted the strong volunteer network and pointed to that as something the board is wanting to develop right across the state.
Mestrov is about to head into his first winter season, but already has some clear strategies to move the sport forward.
A big part is a more commercial focus.
“We’ve got a number of new sponsors,” he said.
A couple of those were involved on the weekend in Catalyst and Fi-Ta.
The more sponsors, the more money to go back into the associations and clubs, which are the heart of the sport.
“My focus is to grow the game at the grass roots and provide more development,” he said.
That’s somewhere where hockey does fall down a bit in comparison to other sports, and Mestrov indicated they were in the process of setting up a more regional development
“We’re looking at models now to have full time development staff,” he said.
At the moment, particularly in regional areas, most of that is voluntary. And while they do a great job, it does make it a bit hard to compete against the likes of league, AFL, union, cricket etc, that have regional development officers.
“At the moment were limiting ourselves,” Mestrov said.
Hockey, he said, does have something very unique going for it.
“It’s a great sport and can be played by the whole family,” he said.
There aren’t many sports that can say that they cater from players from seven up to 70 and above.
“We don’t sell that enough in hockey,” he said.
He is also looking at ways to make hockey a more attractive prospect for the lucrative broadcast market.
The AHL finals were shown on the internet, and the recent Indian Hockey League on Fox, but aside from the Olympics and Commonwealth Games hockey doesn’t enjoy a lot of television exposure.
“I’ve got some ideas around that,” Mestrov said.
The product, at least the base is there, they just have to lift the profile.