Nick sticks to his goal

WITH four major tournaments lined up and an Olympics just a couple of years away, Nick Budgeon's graduation into the Australian hockey squad could not have been better timed, but the Launceston-born talent has waited a lifetime for it. 

His family is entrenched in Tasmanian hockey circles and from the time he was photographed holding a stick while still in a nappy, Budgeon was destined to continue the dynasty.

Father Craig, mum Jeanette, brother Jono, grandfather Wally, uncle David and cousins Kira and Kurt all played hockey for Tasmania, while members of his grandmother's side of the family represented the state in netball, football and cricket with Budgeon estimating that his uncle Kenny missed just one of his junior matches in about 10 years.

``When I was young I was always following dad around to hockey and always had a stick in my hand,'' he said this week from Perth, where the national hockey team is based. 

``I don't think there was ever going to be another sport I was going to play.''

Having begun as a junior with Tamar Churinga, Budgeon won a Northern premiership with Launceston City before a couple of years with Doncaster in England and then moved to fellow Kookaburra Eddie Ockenden's Hobart club North-West Grads. 

He followed Ockenden and Tamar Churinga's Tim Deavin to Western Australia and was this week named alongside them in a national team which begins a hectic 2014 schedule with next week's Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia.

``It was a nice surprise for sure,'' Budgeon said of the squad announcement.

``I knew I was a chance because I went to the World League finals, but you never know. You're never comfortable. You just keep going to training every day, trying to get better every session and then see what happens.

``It's such a big year with the world cup and Commonwealth Games coming up so nobody can rest on their laurels.

``The hard work has only just begun.''

The 26-year-old former Glen Dhu Primary, Prospect High and Launceston College student made his international debut at the Azlan Shah last year and is excited to be heading back as Australia seeks an unprecedented eighth title and long-time friend Ockenden prepares to make his 200th appearance for the Kookaburras.

``To go there with such a strong team and so many senior players is really exciting and it's only four weeks out before they pick the team for the world cup.

``It's a really good tournament with good crowds and it's important for us to be vigilant.''

Budgeon, who is combining training five days a week and playing on a sixth with university studies in finance and economics, is in no doubt about the team's priority.

``There's a real theme that we're getting ready for a world cup, it's spoken about at every single training session. There's 89 days to go, we're defending champions  and there's a real urgency about that.

``I'd be disappointed if I didn't make the world cup but I'm still new and going to have to really earn my spot. I believe I'm capable but it's a hard team to break into and we all know the best team will be picked, so in 89 days time we've got to be at the top of our game.''

Back in Launceston, father Craig said the family was bursting with pride.

``We always knew he had talent,'' he said. 

``My father spent so much time with him as a youngster and even now all he wants to talk about is Nick. I know he'll be cutting these articles out of the paper to keep.''

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