While the Australian lineup at FIH Hockey World Cup features a wealth of fresh talent, with five players set to make their World Cup debut in India, one name on the roster was there and did it all.
And he’s been doing it for almost 18 years.
Captain Eddie Ockenden started life as a striker before transitioning to a midfield role and eventually settling in as a defender for the Kookaburras.
Now, more than 400 hats later, the team’s Tasmanian talisman is gearing up fourth World Cup following his selection to the squads in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
While Ockenden’s tremendous level of fitness saw him defy Father Time to become a mainstay of the team for nearly two decades, he also has an undeniable goal-scoring talent with 72 during his career.
He is currently the player with the most caps for Australia in hockey history and the fourth most prolific of any sport behind Ricky Ponting of cricket (575 caps), Steve Waugh (493 caps) and Allan Border (428 caps).
Over 400 hats and counting for Captain Fantastic
Ockenden is known to shun the spotlight, although he often stood in the center of it when Australia played their most important matches.
He first appeared in Kookaburras in 2006, and two years later made his debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since that time participated in three world championships and four olympic games, with the last one at Tokyo 2020.
So what is the secret of such a long career in such a demanding sport as hockey?
“I just love the game and I think that’s what drives you,” Ockenden said abc.net.au ahead of his 400th cap against India last November. “I still love training. Of course, the game is the best part, but I think if you get to the part where the training is hard, it becomes really hard.
It’s a sign of how popular Ockenden is that there was no doubt he would be selected for the match that brought him four centuries of performances.
“I’ll probably get sacked if he doesn’t play,” Australia coach Colin Batch jokingly said.
And when he finally made his 400th appearance in front of family and friends who traveled to Adelaide to celebrate alongside the Australian captain, Ockenden celebrated the occasion in much the same way he plays many other matches against Australia. a decisive 7:4 victory over the hosts of the upcoming World Cup.
Eddie Ockenden: a longtime winner with only one trophy missing from his wardrobe
While Ockenden has a trophy cabinet filled with top awards in its sport, including medals of the winners of the 2010 and 2014 World Championshipshe is missing one more medal: Olympic gold.
His first attempt at an Olympic title took place at Beijing 2008 where he scored twice in the bronze medal game as Australia defeated the winners of the Netherlands 6-2.
On London 2012 he won his second consecutive bronze medal before Australia finished sixth Rio 2016.
But the closest Ockenden came to the top step of the podium was at the recent Tokyo 2020 Games, where his side fell short of a win, losing the final on penalties to Belgium after a 1-1 draw in regular time.
It was a devastating loss for the men in yellow and green, but just one year later, Australia and Ockenden were back to winning trophies, bringing home a seventh – and Ockenden’s fourth – Commonwealth Games title. Interestingly, the 35-year-old has never lost a match in a tournament.
He left Ockenden with a desire for one more push to Olympic glory and the journey to Paris 2024 will continue with the upcoming The World Hockey Championships will be held in India from January 13-29.
“It’s easy to say I want to go now but I think I’ll just see how we go and try to keep going trying to form a squad,” Ockenden said of his chances of making it to Paris next year, before adding: “I’ll just put his name forward and did what I could.”