Would-be Kookaburra to help Frogs in state title quest

DISAPPOINTED at missing a Kookaburra shirt, Matt Willis is determined to help the Tamworth Frogs to a State Men’s Hockey Championship in Newcastle this weekend.

The first leg of Willis’s frog-hopping assignment was at the Tamworth Hockey Complex on Thursday when he trained with the up and coming junior stars in Hockey NSW’s Athlete Acceleration Program (AAP).

That his father, former Frog star Richard Willis, runs the AAP across the state made certain he trained with and gave some of the younger elite hockey athletes some tips.

Matt Willis would have preferred to have been in Holland with the Kookaburras in a World Cup campaign.

“It is disappointing not to be over there,”  Willis said.

“Hopefully the boys can win it and maybe over the next six to 12 months I can get into the squad.

“They pick a Commonwealth Games squad a couple of weeks after they get back. Hopefully I’ll be in that.”

Glasgow would be a great spot to visit with the Kookaburras for a Commonwealth Games, he reckoned, but Newcastle is where he’ll be this weekend.

“I’ve only ever played in two (NSW Men’s Hockey Championships),” he said.

“One when I was 17 and the other a couple of years ago in 2021.

“We should go well.

“We’ve got a young side. 

“Some of the boys are just back from National Under 21 and 18 championships or preparing to go. 

“Some have been playing in Newcastle and Sydney first grade comps too.

“So we’ll have a handy side.”

Meanwhile, the AAP rolled into Tamworth on Thursday with Richard Willis at the helm and  local regional coaching coordinator Blair Chalmers also on hand.

Willis said this week’s camp was about improving the techniques of the gifted young players.

It involved running drills to improve their techniques to allow them to run better, faster and for longer periods.

“We’ve got 120 athletes across the State in the AAP,” Willis said.

“We have a camp in Sydney for them four times a year and then five of these regional caps across the state.”

Chalmers said “we’re lucky to have Richard Willis”.

“We’re lucky he lives here in Tamworth,” he said.

He said the AAP athletes were part of a new pathway bridging the gap between club and local rep hockey to state and national representative teams.

“It’s an exciting program and a big job for Richard to maintain,”  Chalmers said.

“The feedback from the camps so far has been outstanding.”

Talented young hockey players going through their paces at this week’s Athlete Acceleration Program  camp (from left) Will Turner, Antony Doolan, Jock Evans, Katrina Rekunow, Tessa Pennefather and  Britt Parker. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 050614GOB01

Talented young hockey players going through their paces at this week’s Athlete Acceleration Program camp (from left) Will Turner, Antony Doolan, Jock Evans, Katrina Rekunow, Tessa Pennefather and Britt Parker. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 050614GOB01

He said players in his regional coaching program could utilise the same training techniques as those being used in the AAP to better their games and help them improve their games to make them a chance of AAP selection.

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