BEFORE the 2014 men’s under 21 Australian championship, it had been 10 long years since New South Wales had claimed the national hockey crown.
And in the lead-p to this year’s event at Sydney Olympic Park, it didn’t look like 2014 would be the year the Blues broke their national championship drought either.
But something clicked.
And when it did, it marked the beginning of one of the more dominant Australian championship campaigns of any victorious side in recent memory.
A member of this year’s undefeated NSW team, Orange gun Nick Hill said he had no idea this team would be so special.
“I think we lost a trial game to Queensland 1-0,” Hill laughed, with NSW last week capping an undefeated championship campaign with a resounding 7-2 victory over Victoria in the final.
“That was the day before the tournament started, and Queensland finished fourth. We didn’t think we’d go through without any hiccups. I guess we just looked at that trial game and fixed it.
“It’s bit of a funny thing in tournaments, they say you get better as you go on, but we just started off well and never looked back.
“It’s a bit surreal, really, how we did it. I didn’t think we’d go through undefeated.”
Hill has enjoyed national championship success at under 18 level in the past, but this year was the first time NSW has claimed the under 21 title since 2004.
“A lot’s changed since then,” Hill said of his under 18 success in 2012.
“We definitely put the hard work in and got the rewards I guess.”
Personally, last week’s Australian championship was also a success for Hill.
The 20-year-old caught the eye of Australian Hockey League selectors and has been picked in the NSW Waratahs training squad..
“I guess I must have gone alright,” he smiled.
Now playing with the Burwood Briars, Hill is hopeful of continuing his golden run at club level as well.
“Hopefully we can turn our season around and try and win a Sydney premiership,” he said.
“They pick some junior Aussie squads after 21s so I’m just trying to aim for AHL and then go from there. You’ve got to keep trying to aim for the next thing. I’m only 20, I’ve got to look at new goals.
“I’m looking forward to that.”