Defence field hockey teams clashed with some of the nation’s best at this year’s Australian Country Championships in Shepparton.
CAPTION: RAAF Corporal Zac Simpson lines up the ball during the 2023 Australian Country Championships in Shepparton. Story by Corporal Luke Bellman. Photos by Leigh Momk.
The men placed 5th after defeating South Australia 3-1 in a playoff, while the women finished 4th following a 2-1 loss to Victoria in the bronze medal match.
Lieutenant Hannah Mcclung, who has played in NSW national teams since she was 13, was awarded most valuable player.
“In the game against Victoria one of our strikers received the ball across the goal in three passes and scored in the top corner. It was a textbook [example] of what our coach asked us to do,” Lieutenant Mcclung said.
“[We’re] really happy with how all the girls from across Australia, who have never trained together before, came together and competed at a national level.”
Seven matches were played during the championship and each team had a squad of 18.
Women’s coach Chief Petty Officer Dan Knapp said the solidarity between the two Defence squads was recognised among the states.
“Men and women support each other at games and game days, and provide strong crowd support,” Chief Petty Officer Knapp said.
CAPTION: Australian Army’s Lieutenant Hannah Mcclung protects the goal during the Australian Country Championships.
Prior to the championships the teams played against ACT Hockey One Chills squad and the touring UK Army hockey team at a five-day camp in Canberra.
“They used it as a selection game for their squad, but we used it as just an opportunity to build combinations,” Chief Petty Officer Dan Knapp said.
The highlight match for Corporal Zac Simpson was against South Australia.
“Before I joined RAAF, I used to play for South Australia, I was playing against old mates in their team,” Corporal Simpson said.
“I feel like every year is a bit different – hard with everyone and their duties. We would be better if we could get full teams straight away.”
The Australian Defence Force Hockey Association (ADFHA) teams are now recognised as an associate member by Hockey Australia, meaning they have the same exposure in the hockey community as a governing body. ADFHA has been competing for more than 40 years.