League puts a high price on Ockenden

TASMANIAN hockey star Eddie Ockenden is the eighth-most expensive player in the Hockey India League.

The world's leading field hockey stars will play in the new Indian tournament next month on the lines of cricket's popular Indian Premier League.

The HIL, sanctioned by the sport's world governing body, will have the top stars turn out for five franchise-based teams from January 17 to February 17.

Led by Kookaburras co- captains Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles, Fergus Kavanagh and Ockenden, Australia was the most represented overseas country with 15 players selected, compared with nine each for the Netherlands and Pakistan.

Ockenden, who stands to earn $65,000, will play alongside the top-valued player - the Netherlands' most capped player, Teun De Nooijer ($87,400)- at the Uttar Pradesh Wizards.

The 25-year-old two-time Olympic bronze medallist, who was among the finalists at last week's Tasmanian athlete of the year awards, tweeted his delight at getting signed up and said it would be the fifth team in which he had played alongside recently retired Kookaburra Luke Doerner (following Australia, North-West Grads, Tasmania and Dutch side Laren).

"Was really strange being auctioned off yesterday but got picked up by the Uttar Pradesh Wizards [and] can't wait to get to India for HIL!" he tweeted.

The salaries pale in comparison to what cricketers make in the five-year-old IPL - where top players earn around $2million a year - but are still a financial bonanza for the hockey stars.

Each of the five squads will have 10 foreign and 14 Indian players for the televised tournament described by HIL boss Narinder Batra as a "game-changer" in the world of hockey.

"The tournament not only provides players with a great platform to showcase their skills but also helps them gain financial rewards and raises the profile of hockey in India and across the world," Batra said.

Among the renowned coaches signed up by the franchises, owned by Indian business houses, were Ric Charlesworth and Barry Dancer of Australia.

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