STILL EXCITED: Veteran Eddie Ockenden.
STILL EXCITED: Veteran Eddie Ockenden. Adam Head

Veteran Kookaburra driven to succeed on home soil

HOCKEY: Sitting in the stands of Melbourne's State Hockey Centre in 2006, an 18-year-old Eddie Ockenden watched as legends Jamie Dwyer, Brent Livermore and current captain Mark Knowles steered the Kookaburras to gold at the Commonwealth Games.

The Tasmanian narrowly missed selection in the squad but his competitive fire had been stoked in the stands and he made his debut months later at the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia.

"I was on the cusp of making the team then so that was a really great motivator,” Ockenden, 30, said outside the athletes' village yesterday.

"To have another chance to do it in Australia, I think we're incredibly lucky.”

A lot has changed since that debut.

The midfielder has played more than 300 games for the Kookaburras, won two Olympic bronze medals, two World Cups, gold at the 2010 Delhi Games, two Champions Trophies and an Oceania Cup.

If there is any similarity between that first game in Malaysia and this afternoon's Pool A match against South Africa, it is Ockenden's unchanged love for his sport.

"Your first game happens really quickly and for me, I didn't know what was happening until after the first tournament, and you have to sit back and say, 'Oh, I didn't really do very well because I was too excited or too nervous',” he said.

"I've played a lot more hockey since then - the excitement is still there ... I've played over 300 games and I'm still itching to get out there tomorrow.”

Coach Colin Batch has made one change to his squad, with Blake Govers requiring surgery on a broken finger and replaced by Tom Wickham.

Australia plays SA at 4.30pm.

- Matthew McInerney



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