TAMWORTH’S elite players and coaches had the opportunity to workshop with one of hockey’s elite on the weekend.
Matthew Wells was one of Australia’s most respected players and is now a highly-respected coach.
Currently the Queensland Blades (men’s AHL side) coach and involved with the Queensland Academy of Sport hockey program, Wells was brought to Tamworth through Anittel’s sponsorship of coaching
He conducted three field sessions for the athletes and a four-hour workshop for coaches.
The Tasmanian knows first-hand the hockey talent that exists in Tamworth.
He played alongsode two of best Tamworth has produced in Michael York and Matthew Smith during an illustrious career that spanned three Olympic Games, including the 2004 Athens Games where the Kookaburras won gold.
After retiring in 2009 he moved virtually straight to the other side of the pitch.
Wells said it had always been in the back of his mind that he might like to coach after he finished playing and when the opportunity came up he took it.
It has been an interesting journey since, and he said he can now understand why coaches get frustrated.
“Coaching is a totally different ball game,” he said.
“You don’t realise how good it is being an athlete until its over.”
The game too has changed a lot. Even in the few years since he finished players.
“The game is a lot faster and more skillful,” Wells said
The basic philosophy is still the same.
“There will also be the basic, fundamental skills that hockey players need to be taught and all players need to have,” he said.
But these days there are “fancier skills” that are a part of players’ skillsets.
That’s been the biggest challenge, he said.
He works with a few that are very adept at those “fancy skills”.
None more so than Blades’ captain Jamie Dwyer.
He headlines an enviable playing roster, and one that is certainly capable of taking out the upcoming AHL.
“We’ve defintely got the side. We’ve got the players there. It’s a matter of geling as a team,” Wells said.
“It’s very unique, fortunate and unfortunate that we have nine players in the Aussie team that are all Perth-based meeting up with nine Brisbane guys.”
Their training will be three days before the tournament starts.
For all the names – Dwyer, Liam DeYoung, Mark Knowles, Matt Swann, Nathan Burgers and the like, they’ve also got some good young players coming through the state ranks.
Tamworth’s Jake Hathway is one of those.
He was named the Brisbane competition’s rookie player of the year on the weekend .
Wells also saw a bit of Sam Liles at the U18 Nationals earlier in the year and was impressed with what he saw.