Kookaburra young gun Eddie Ockenden has proven his blistering Beijing Olympic form was no fluke, with the up and comer named the 2008 WorldHockey Young Player of the year overnight.
The 21 year old was awarded the honour during the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) Congress Dinner in Los Angeles, USA.
Painting an exciting picture for the future of the Kookaburras, this is the second year running an Australian has won the Young Player of the Year award, with dual Olympic medalist Mark Knowles winning the award in 2007.
Despite the quality of his competition for the award, which included Kookaburras team-mate Des Abbott, Ockenden was a stand out amongst the group.
While his credentials and form were exceptional in 2008, the modest midfielder says he was extremely surprised and honoured to win the award.
“Firstly I was happy to just be nominated. And then when I saw the quality of the competition I was up against, I didn’t know what my chances of winning the award would be. So to be named the best young player for 2008 amongst all the players in the world, it’s obviously a very humbling experience.” Said Ockenden.
Since debuting at the 2006 Azlan Shah, Ockenden has shown no difficulties adjusting to the rigours of international hockey. His progression has been such that he is now considered a key component to the Kookaburras line up.
After being named the best young player at both the 2007 and 2008 Champions Trophy tournaments, Ockenden has been thrust into the spotlight on the world hockey scene.
He lived up to expectations during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, scoring six goals from seven matches, including two goals in the bronze medal match against the Netherlands.
His form has been such that he has drawn comparisons to Kookaburra great Jamie Dwyer, who coincidently won the Young Player of the Year award in 2002.
While flattered with the comparisons, Ockenden says he realises what it takes to become one of the world’s elite players, and will continue to strive towards his goals.
“Being compared to someone like Jamie is obviously flattering as he is such a great player and a gold medalist, but I am not getting ahead of myself. This is a great honour but there are still areas of my game I need to improve on and I will be looking to do that throughout the next Olympic cycle.” Said Ockenden
Hockey Australia Chief Executive Mark Anderson says Ockenden’s recognition is well deserved, and he looks forward to Ockenden forming an important part of the Kookaburras next Olympic cycle.
“Obviously Hockey Australia is extremely proud to have several players nominated for both the WorldHockey Player of the Year and WorldHockey Young Player of the Year. Eddie in particular has shown great form in 2008, most notably during the Kookaburras 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medal campaign.” Said Anderson.
“Eddie has a big future ahead of him on the international hockey scene, and as the Kookaburras commence the beginning of the next Olympic cycle, Eddie will no doubt help lead the new era for the Kookaburras now with Ric Charlesworth at the helm. The first step in this process will be at the 2009 Men’s Champions Trophy in Melbourne, where Eddie will be going for his third successive Young Player of the Tournament award after receiving the honour at both the 2007 and 2008 Champions Trophy tournaments.” Said Anderson.
Ockenden says he is looking forward to the next phase for the Kookaburras, and in particular making the transition from the squads younger brigade to becoming a team leader following the retirements to the likes of Travis Brooks and Nathan Eglington.
“The squad has changed quite a bit from the team who played at the Beijing Olympics. With Ric Charlesworth now coaching the team, I think the next four year Olympic cycle will be very exciting for men’s hockey in Australia. As part of that, I'm looking to grow with the team and with some Olympic experience now under my belt, I’m hoping to take on more leadership responsibilities. My first opportunity to do that on the international stage will be at the 2009 Champions Trophy in Melbourne, so I’m looking forward to doing that on home soil.” Said Ockenden.
In other WorldHockey news, Jamie Dwyer and Bevan George were nominated for the 2008 WorldHockey Player of the Year, however the award was won by Spaniard Pol Amat.