Tasmanians hit ground running for Olympics

TASMANIA remains on course for another bumper Olympic hockey representation after the cream of its male talent was named in assorted national squads yesterday.

Launceston's Tim Deavin and Nick Budgeon plus Eddie Ockenden, of Hobart, all featured in the men's senior squad for 2014 with Hobart young gun Jeremy Edwards making the development squad.

Tasmanian Institute of Sport hockey coach Andrew McDonald said the selections bode well for both this year's Commonwealth Games and another healthy Olympics contribution in Rio de Janeiro after Ockenden and Deavin won bronze medals in London and Ockenden, Matthew Wells and David Guest did the same in Beijing.

``Their selections are really pleasing,'' he said.

``Our aim is to have a minimum of three vying for selection in 2016 and at the moment we have three in strong contention.''

Former Launceston City defender Budgeon and fellow 26-year-old Ockenden, of North-West Grads, have both been named in the 18-man squad to compete at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia. 

Budgeon is promoted from the national development squad having stepped in to replace the injured Chris Ciriello before the World League finals.

McDonald is confident Budgeon is ready for the challenge after 14 national appearances including two penalty corner conversions from as many chances in a three-match series against Malaysia.

``It's the first time Nick has been in a national senior squad so it's a significant step up for him,'' he said.

``He went to the World League finals and although it would be very hard to make the world cup team, if you wanted to expose players to a really big major event prior to Rio you'd look at the Commonwealth Games. It would be logical to think this would come into selectors' minds.

``The more you play with the national team, the more you feel at home and more confident you get and he now has a clear pathway forward.''

Former world player of the year nominee Ockenden is set to make his 200th appearance for the Kookaburras in Ipoh but McDonald did not read too much into the absence of former Tamar Churinga player Deavin, 29, from next month's 23rd edition of the prestigious invitational tournament where the Aussies are gunning for a record eighth title. 

``They will be looking at load. Tim played in the World League finals and Hockey India League and with the way he plays, he needs to have a break.

``I think they're just being really diligent so that when they sit down to select the team for the world cup they have a list of fit players ready to be selected.''

National coach Ric Charlesworth, who made eight changes from the squad that competed at the World League finals in Delhi in January, has indicated his intention to stand down after the Commonwealth Games and McDonald believed doors may open for young Edwards, of Hobart club OHA.

Charlesworth said the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is Australia's last tournament before the world cup and the squad has been picked with that in mind. 

``We've selected based on a range of objectives, including load management,'' he said. ``We've got athletes that have played in the Oceania Cup, World League finals and Hockey India League and we need to look after them with both the world cup and Commonwealth Games coming up.''

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