Stars set standard in Cup
THEIR preparation was out of the box, with an Iranian Taekwondo coach brought in to introduce meditation sessions before every game.
But this and a strict non-drinking policy allowed Northern Star hockey players Sam McPherson and Matt Harmon to excel for the Australian Country Under-21s at the Oceania Pacific Cup at the end of last year in Suva, Fiji.
There, just 50 seconds stopped the Aussies from what would have been a memorable win over the New Zealand Barbarians in the final.
Australian Country led 3-2 before the Barbarians fired in an equaliser in the dying stages.
But this result will not deter striker McPherson.
At just 20 he is aiming to go one better with the same side at the next Pacific Cup also in Suva in December.
"I can't see why we can't go better and hold on for that extra 50 seconds next time around," he said.
"It was pretty intense (against the Barbarians).
"Their side contained some of their best junior players as well as some guys that are close to making their national team."
The Australians also beat the Fijian national side 4-2 in the semi-final, smashed Vanuatu and Samoa 15-0 and 11-0 respectively and beat Papua New Guinea 3-1.
They lost 2-0 to the Barbarians in their earlier pool game.
McPherson scored five goals for the campaign.
And while his team could only train together twice before the tournament, he said the non-drinking policy and regular meditation sessions were big factors in his and his side's success.
"We had an Iranian Taekwondo coach bring in the meditation sessions in the mornings before every game and they were great," he said.
"That relaxed us and put our minds on the job.
"We all got behind the no-drinking policy because we had never done that sort of thing before and that also helped us."
McPherson praised the work of centre half/striker and Star team-mate Matt Harmon.
"He captained us and led by example," he said.
"It's a pity he did a shoulder injury in the semi-final against the big Fijians.
"He played the final in pain.
"But he couldn't produce his drag flick move which had worked so well for us and got us some goals in earlier games."
McPherson's focus has now turned to club hockey and he wants to be involved in another consistent season for Northern Star.
Star have won the Far North Coast Hockey A-grade minor premiership for the last two years and the major title from 2007-2010.
On the representative scene, excelling once again at the State and National Championships in the coming months are his goals.
If he does perform as expected, he will book himself another plane ticket to the Oceania Pacific Cup in his quest to break through and win the title on his third attempt.