Johann Perera is an EVO sponsored Elite Development coach, who was supported by EVO Hockey to spend a gap year in Australia, learning about Southern Hemisphere approaches to hockey. Here, he blogs about his amazing experience.
It was sometime in January, in the depths of winter, the pitch was frozen and training had become a video session. As a team we tried to model our style of play on Australia; they are the best team in the world after all. Whilst watching a video I was inspired by the way the Australians play and had the crazy idea of going there to experience it myself. After a bit of thought, a little planning and the help and support of my sponsor EVO Hockey, I had a plane ticket booked for the other side of the world!
I started off by travelling 11,500 miles to New Zealand and then somehow managed to travel all over both islands in 2 weeks! A few highlights were a hike at Mount Cook, a boat trip at Milford Sound and to top it all off a Bungy jump at Kawarau Bridge. I also managed to find two lovely water based AstroTurfs at the University of Otago in Dunedin. After being allowed on, I spent some time trying some of the awesome gear EVO and JDH had provided for me.
I then travelled to Melbourne and with the help of travel company SportLived found an apartment with some wonderful new friends and a great new hockey club, Powerhouse St Kilda. Powerhouse is a very open, social club; encouraging participation in team sport and is one of the best clubs in the Victoria. It has 10 senior men’s and women’s sides and is located in the heart of Albert Park, where the Grand Prix is, and next to St Kilda beach. Powerhouse has a strong Premier League team consisting of several Aussie internationals, 6 Vikings (state) players and an ex Pakistan international, Waseem Ahmad who has played for Pakistan over 400 times as well as captaining the side! There are also two German players who have played in the Bundesliga and my coach, Graham Joyce, a former Scottish International having represented his country over 30 times. Being able to watch and train with these guys has helped my game enormously as well as the amazing coaches at the club. We even had Kieran Govers, current Kookaburra and Hockey World Champion, taking a few sessions.
I was selected for the Premier Reserves, making my debut against Doncaster one of the stronger teams in the competition. After going 1-0 up at half-time we found ourselves 1-2 down 10 minutes into the second half as a result of two counter attack goals. We dug deep as a team, levelling with 4 minutes to go and scoring a winner with 1 minute to go! It was a very tense game and honestly a baptism of fire for myself, but having received lots of positive feedback about my performance I was chuffed to bits. The best part about winning in Australia is the team song; every club has song, which is sung very proudly and even more loudly when you win a match. This is a great feature of hockey out here and one I enjoy very much.
Being out here in Australia is amazing, the country is wonderful, and the people are even better. I’ve had some great new experiences such as Skydiving St Kilda beach from 14,000 feet and have made loads of new friends. The hockey has been amazing and I’ve loved learning new styles and techniques that are used in Australia. The biggest difference in hockey would have to be the pace of play, with the Australians playing such a fast and expansive game makes it a lot of hard work but so rewarding when you win! I wouldn't trade this experience for anything and hopefully it helps me with my push for Sri Lankan International selection. I am so grateful to EVO Hockey and Powerhouse St Kilda for making this all possible!!