Austalian hockey star Eddie Ockenden is set to join the 400 club this weekend – and says that a love for training and being part of the Kookaburras has kept him going.
The 35-year-old, currently on 398 caps, will become the first Australian male or female player to reach the milestone mark on Sunday, the seventh male player to achieve the accolade.
He will lead an Australia side in a five-match Test series against India, which starts on Saturday, as Colin Batch’s side play in Adelaide for the first time in 13 years.
The series will be a key marker ahead of January’s World Cup in India and the first major matches for the hosts since they cast aside India at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
“This series is really important for us coming up to the World Cup in January,” Ockenden said. “It’s great that India are here. We love playing against them and this will be great competition for us.
“It was a bit daunting a few months ago (thinking about reaching my 400th) but I have come around to appreciating that it is a lot of games.
“Hockey has been a major part of my life for a long time and it’s really special to have people congratulate you or have former team-mates, coaches, people I grew up playing hockey with in Tasmania, saying nice things about you, so I’m going to try and enjoy it. I’ll have my family here as well which is great.
Ockenden made his debut in 2006 and has won two World Cup and four Commonwealth titles with Australia. He surpassed Jamie Dwyer’s mark of 365 caps two years ago and now looks set to retire after Paris 2024.
Most capped men’s international hockey players
453 – Teun de Nooijer (Netherlands)
436 – John-John Dohmen (Belgium)*
432 – Barry Middleton (GB)
412 – Dilip Tirkey (India)
410 – Waseem Ahmed (Pakistan)
401 – Jeroen Delmee (Netherlands)
*Dohmen is only current player
“I still love training, playing is the best and if you get to a point when training is hard then it becomes really difficult. But I still love being around my team-mates.”
Batch and India coach Graham Reid have each played a part in Ockenden’s career. And both acknowledged the magnitude of the Tasmanian’s looming milestone.
“It is an outstanding achievement. We’re thrilled for Eddie and his family and look forward to a big crowd turning up on Sunday and on all five match days,” said Batch.
Former Australian coach Barry Dancer was at the helm when Ockenden first made the Kookaburras squad. “His athleticism and broad range of technical skill provided the foundation for becoming a universal player of the modern game,” Dancer said.
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