Eddie Ockenden just wanted to play sport.
- Eddie Ockenden first played for the Kookaburras in 2006
- He will reach 400 matches on Sunday against India
- Ockenden plans to compete in the World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympics
As a child, he tried every sport he could and eventually figured out he loved hockey the most.
The affair has stood the test of time.
Ockenden made it all the way to the Australian team in 2006 and has been with the Kookaburras now for 16 years and is a co-captain.
“I just love the game and I think that’s what has to keep you going,” he said.
“I still love training. Obviously playing is the best part but, I think, if you get to a part where training’s hard then it becomes really difficult.”
With 398 appearances in the green and gold, Ockenden already holds the record for Australia and on the blue surface of Adelaide’s state hockey centre against India on Sunday he is destined to play his 400th game.
“It was a bit daunting a few months ago, but I’ve come around to appreciating that it is a lot of games and a big part of your life,” Ockenden, 35, offered this week as he prepared for his latest milestone.
“I’m going to try [to] enjoy it and have my family here which is great.”
The defender — who has played as a striker and also as a midfielder — is held in such high regard that his position in the team for Saturday’s opening game of the five-match series against India, which then sets up his 400th on Sunday, is in no doubt.
“I’ll probably get sacked if he didn’t play,” said Kookaburras coach Colin Batch with a smile.
“Especially with family and friends coming into Adelaide, they might not be able to stay for the Wednesday game or the following week.
“He’ll definitely play Saturday and Sunday.”
India’s coach is Graham Reid, a former Australian player and coach, who has seen firsthand just how talented and dedicated Ockenden has been to being one of the sport’s best.
“To have that longevity in any sport, including ours, means that you have to be, one, dedicated, you have to be resilient and lots of those things describe Eddie’s personality and, to add to that, he’s a very, very nice guy,” Reid said.
Ockenden has been clearly embarrassed by the attention and focus on his exploits, something that only serves to highlight just why he has been admired by those both inside and outside hockey.
Former Australian coach Barry Dancer — who was in charge when Ockenden first made the national squad — described his potential then as “undeniable”.
“His athleticism and broad range of technical skill provided the foundation for becoming a universal player of the modern game,” Dancer reflected.
Aiming for the Olympics
Australia’s hockey players do not receive huge salaries for their sacrifice. None would earn anywhere near what AFL or NRL players receive and quite a few have jobs outside hockey.
Ockenden described that as an advantage for the Kookaburras in the quest for success.
“We all moved to Perth to train together, basically as a professional team,” Ockenden, a proud Tasmanian, said.
“It just means you want to play for Australia, you want to go the Olympics and those sort of things are strengths for us.”
His dedication to, and love of, hockey has shown no sign of waning.
His goals are set for the foreseeable future.
The World Cup is in India in January next year. The 2024 Paris Olympics are next in line.
Ockenden would just love to be there.