The inspirational qualities of Tasmania’s national hockey dynasty continue to ensure its immediate future.
While Eddie Ockenden fondly recalls the motivational impact of being a ball boy when Matthew Wells made his Kookaburras debut 21 years ago, two more Tassie Tigers graduates attribute the latest Australian captain for their international emergence.
When Ockenden was afforded the honour of leading the national team out in his home town on Sunday, he was accompanied by two other Hobart-born talents who had also begun their careers at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre.
Josh Beltz and Jack Welch went to the same school, played for the same team and cite the same state and national mentor for their progression.
“I love Eddie and his ability on the field is so reflected in the person he is off the field,” said Beltz, 23.
“He’s been great to me.
“Any questions I’ve got he’s been willing to help, it’s just like having a big brother over in Perth.”
For Welch the connection is even stronger as the 21-year-old finds himself filling the same striking role that Ockenden had at the first of his three Olympic Games in 2008.
“Eddie was always someone I looked up to,” he said.
“He’s such a great player and I based my game on him.
“To see Josh make it as well was a big inspiration and motivated me because I knew if he could do it, I could as well.”
Welch also has Beltz to thank for launching his career.
“I played soccer at Rosetta Primary School with Josh and his brother Hayden and their hockey team needed some fill-ins. They got me along and as soon as I started playing I got hooked.
“I have a lot of good memories playing club hockey. We did pretty well. I played a lot with Josh through the junior ranks and it was a lot of fun.”
Developing through Hobart’s Prince of Wales Wellington club (now DiamondBacks), the pair progressed through state and national under-age teams before committing to the national program with a move to the sport’s base in Western Australia.
“I made my first state team at under-13s and then remained involved from there,” Welch said.
“I got recognised nationally at my top age of under-18s and from there I was put into the under-21 national team, debuted for them when I was 18 and just went from there.
When you look up to guys like Eddie Ockenden, David Guest, Tim Deavin and Matthew Wells it certainly helps. You aspire to be like them and can see the pathway and that guys before you have done it.Josh Beltz
“I moved to Perth at the start of this year. I went over last year to play club hockey for a season so knew what it was going to be like to make the move, so it was pretty easy.
“It’s a pretty big load - a lot of training, early mornings. Pretty tough, but definitely worth it.”
Beltz made the inter-state move in 2015 and his development took off following successful hip surgery.
“I really enjoy the training and lifestyle in Perth,” he said.
“It’s a competitive environment but I think that brings out the best in everyone. I’ve really enjoyed the process, the guys are very welcoming and I definitely feel I can contribute as part of the group.
“From when I was 19 and moved over to now has been a big learning curve. I think I’ve grown as a person outside of hockey and that’s something they encourage and I’m trying to improve myself on and off the field.”
Following Sunday’s 4-2 defeat of four-time Olympic champion Germany in the FIH Pro League, Beltz sits on 35 international caps and Welch five.
Neither need telling that it is a good time to be claiming a Kookaburras spot with an Olympics just 18 months away, although both are wary of getting ahead of themselves.
“After the World Cup last year, everyone’s got one eye on Tokyo already,” Beltz said.
“We’ve got an Olympic qualifier in the Oceania Cup towards the end of this year, that’s probably the most important event purely for the Olympic qualification, but in terms of crowd engagement and the amount of games we’ll play, Pro League is where it’s at.
“I’d absolutely love to go to the Olympics. It’s been a dream of mine ever since I started and is getting a bit closer now I’m part of the squad but there’s going to be a lot of work between now and then so I just want to put my best foot forward and see how I go.”
Singing from a similar hymn sheet, Welch added: “Olympics are on the radar but the focus is on what’s on now and that’s Pro League plus what I’m doing in the daily training environment so I don’t want to think too far ahead.
“I just want to learn, get better and see what happens.
“I’d like to have a long and successful career so am just hoping to stay involved in the squad for a long time.”
However many Tasmanians ultimately play in Tokyo, they will not want for role models.
“When you look up to guys like Eddie Ockenden, David Guest, Tim Deavin and Matthew Wells it certainly helps,” Beltz said.
“You aspire to be like them and can see the pathway and that guys before you have done it. It’s very special to have the ability to achieve that.”
And the fact that Wells was also a product of Rosetta Primary suggests the school should be rather proud of its hockey program.