NICK Budgeon knows only too well that if he was any other nationality he would be a walk-up start for the Olympic hockey tournament.
Instead, as the world’s No.1 ranked team continues fine-tuning their Olympic countdown in Budgeon’s home state, he is one of 40 world-class players, more than half of which will not be heading to Rio de Janeiro next year.
‘‘Probably all 40 of the guys here, if they weren’t playing for Australia would be in the first 16 of most countries, but you want to play for Australia,’’ Budgeon said.
‘‘It’s competitive, it’s hard, it’s stressful but we love it and that’s why we do it.
‘‘That’s the cut-throat nature of being an athlete — sometimes it’s just an email that judges you and tells you whether or not you’re good enough. I wouldn’t like to be a coach, put it that way.’’
The 27-year-old, with 35 appearances in an international career spanning two years, said the final cut for last year’s World Cup tournament in the Netherlands demonstrated the point.
‘‘Just look at how many quality players missed out on that. Originally Tim Deavin and Matt Gohdes both missed out but in the end both went and were brilliant. So you just have to take opportunities when you get them and perform as well as you can and make the most of them. It’s bloody hard though.’’
On a rest day in the four-nation tournament in Hobart, Budgeon seized an opportunity to return home to Launceston and joined fellow Tassie Tiger Josh Beltz and Blake Govers, of NSW, for a kids’ clinic at his old St Leonards stamping ground.
The former Tamar Churinga and Launceston City player, whose father Craig, mum Jeanette, brother Jono, grandfather Wally, uncle David and cousins Kira and Kurt all also played hockey for Tasmania, was delighted to join his national teammates in the final squad for the remainder of the tournament.
The defender played for both the Kookaburras and Australia A at the weekend and said adapting to changing teams is an expectation of an elite player.
‘‘It’s challenging but we work a lot in our extended squad on being connected so it is something we addressed before the series started. There are lots of players that have not really played together but we have to gel and gel quickly. It’s challenging but it’s one of our strengths I believe.
‘‘I was so caught up by not getting distracted by playing in front of my home crowd that I think that distracted me! It was brilliant and really special but now that’s out of the way we can concentrate on what’s important for the rest of the week.’’
The former Glen Dhu, Prospect High and Launceston College student who competes with the likes of Chris Ciriello, Kieran Govers and Jeremy Hayward for drag flick responsibilities, said this week is geared towards selecting the team for the World League in Belgium, a competition he graced last year and which offers Olympic qualification to the top three teams.
However, Budgeon admitted the chance to claim what would be just the Kookaburras’ second Olympic title is in the back of every player’s thoughts.
‘‘It’s one step at a time but the Olympics is what we’re working towards. It’s something we speak about, how many days it is until we go away. Everything we do now is based upon that competition. Everything else is fine tuning.
‘‘Obviously we’re concentrating on the World League because we need to get there first, but it’s fair to say that in the back of our minds that’s our long-term goal and on a daily basis every session counts because they go by pretty quick.’’