Despite years of experience, Leigh Rogers and Michael Collins both agree: It never gets any easier to qualify for Australia.
The pair play masters hockey and have both been named in respective women’s and men’s sides to play three matches against New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Barb Rogers has been named as shadow (reserve) for the Australian roster after a standout showing in national championships late last year.
“It never seems to get easier,” Leigh says. “You kind of know what to expect, but you still have to play your best hockey.”
Collins echoed the sentiment saying he had “trained smarter” this year to earn his spot in the green and gold.
“When I got selected as a shadow made me think I was on the right track,” Collins said. “I’ve been playing nationals for almost 10 years, but started to be more focused on it, I put a bit more effort in … trained smarter.”
Unfortunately Collins never got any game time as a reserve, and he was shocked to discover he had been named in the initial line-up for this year’s tour.
“I was absolutely wanting it, but I was a bit dumbstruck, you’re never quite sure you heard it [announced] correctly,” he said with a laugh.
“I happened to be there with a good mate of mine and I was too busy congratulating him that I missed my name, so I was fairly well gobsmacked to find out.”
Barb also shared a quirky beginning to her Australian campaign.
She was named as a shadow for the nationals and didn’t expect any game time.
However, she got the call up before having a standout performance to be selected as a back up for the Australian roster.
Leigh and Collins train together twice a week, adapting the artificial surface of the Bega Tennis Courts to the conditions they’ll face on ground in New Zealand.
It’s a process they’ve done over a couple of years now and helps them keep in check with the feel of turf.
“You have an official training program sent out that you have to follow and submit things like your sprint times,” Leigh said.
“But the courts can help keep you honed to that type of playing field.”
This will be Collins’ first international event and the first time for Barb to be named as a back-up to contest.
Meanwhile, Leigh is staring down her fourth year of play and said she knew plenty of her team-mates already.
“There are a number of women from the NSW nationals side selected so it does definitely help you settle in," she said.
The Australian masters will face off against New Zealand in a Trans-Tasman tour in May.
Leigh said she is expecting an immense challenge.
“New Zealand are super-tough players,” she said. “It will be quite physical hockey, which can be a bit different to what you’re used to.”