By KATE ALLMAN
Just as we thought we had some idea of how the last two rounds of the JDH Hockey One League 2023 Season could play out, Junior World Cups and untimely injuries continue to throw spanners in the works.
Meanwhile the Jillaroos and Burras are about to take flight to Chile and Malaysia, forcing senior Kookaburras to leave the load-management nest and pick up their Hockey One sticks again.
Here are the biggest stories to watch in Round 6.
Beltz, Govers, Hunter are back: Ins and outs
Josh Beltz has been nursing an injured paw in the casualty ward of the Tassie Tigers which has kept him out of featuring so far this season. However, he has been listed to take the turf against the Adelaide Fire at home on Saturday night. Beltz is the captain when playing and has been missed while his team copped two losses in a row to Brisbane Blaze and NSW Pride, including an agonisingly tense shootout loss to the Pride in Round 5.
NSW Pride superstar Blake Govers was a glaring omission in the same game, during which the Pride men scored just one goal from a penalty corner drag flick in regular time. The Pride bring Govers back for Round 6 to match up against the ominous drag flicking capabilities of Thundersticks recruit James Day out west. Another Kookaburra returns to the lineup alongside Govers in Lachlan Sharp with Nathan Czinner slotting straight into the side upon returning from the Sultan of Johor Cup.
Canberra goalkeeper Rene Hunter also returns tonight to face an in-form Brisbane Blaze women’s side. The Blaze have had no issues scoring 14 goals across the last two rounds. However, Hunter, who established herself among the goalkeeping talent of Australia with a breakout season in 2022, could be the stopper to flip the script.
Also on Friday, we will witness the return of super-mum Emily Kingston in her debut for the Brisbane Blaze. Emily last played for the Queensland Scorchers in the former Australian Hockey League in 2018. She had a break from hockey to become a mum to daughter Rose and was nursing an ACL injury. Five years since playing national representative hockey, she is thrilled to be entering the Hockey One arena in orange number 21.
Who will be next to book finals tickets?
Two teams have already booked their tickets to Canberra for the finals series – the NSW Pride Men and the Perth Thundersticks Women – both who have undefeated records so far in 2023.
In Round 6, both Brisbane Blaze teams have a chance to cement their places and become the first franchise with a men’s and women’s team in the finals for the second year in a row. Outright wins over Canberra on Friday night will send them to the semi-finals. Anything less and the outcomes are less certain.
Meanwhile, the NSW Pride women are clinging onto hopes to go back-to-back alongside their men. They need to win both their next two games. It won’t be easy as this week they face an almighty test against ladder leaders the Perth Thundersticks women on Sunday afternoon.
Jillaroos out from round seven onwards
This weekend will be your last weekend to see the players selected in the Jillaroos’ Junior World Cup team in action for the 2023 season.
It has been confirmed that players in the Australian under 21 women’s team will not be available to play Round 7 or the Finals Main Event. The Jillaroos will be jetting off to Chile to play in the Women’s Junior World Cup, which starts on 29 November, that undoubtedly requires important prep before that. It means Hockey One clubs will need to find depth beyond some of their biggest – though youngest – stars at the most crucial phase of the season.
Capped Hockeyroos Maddison Brooks, Claire Colwill, Hannah Cullum-Sanders, Tatum Stewart (Brisbane Blaze), Alana Kavanagh, Grace Young (NSW Pride) and Amy Lawton (HC Melbourne) are all part of the Junior World Cup squad. Check out the full lineup of Jillaroos in Chile here. Every match of the tournament will be streamed live on Watch.Hockey.
The men’s equivalent, the Burras, have just returned from Malaysia wearing silver medals from a valiant effort at the Sultan of Johor Cup. They also have a Junior World Cup to prepare for but will be available to play in Round 7, although they too will be unavailable for the Hockey One finals.