Former Moama resident George Bazeley was part of the team which won the Men's Hockey Champions Trophy on Sunday.By Geordie Cowan
The sound of the ball thudding into the backboard of the Netherlands goals at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Sunday gave Echuca-born Kookaburras goalkeeper George Bazeley an overwhelming sense of relief.
The goal, struck by Kieran Govers in the fifth minute of golden goal extra time, earned the Kookaburras a fifth consecutive Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy and a fourth for Bazeley personally.
‘‘It was tense, nervous,’’ he said.
‘‘In front of a home crowd as well, it was important for us to win.
‘‘It was a great moment in sport for us.’’
Bazeley shared the goalkeeping duties with Andrew Charter for the event, with both vying for the number one spot since Nathan Burgers retired.
‘‘When the tournament started, we were told we would share halves up until the semi-final, when a selection would be made on form,’’ the former Moama resident said.
‘‘When the time came, neither of us had done anything to damage our chances, so they left it to continue playing halves.
‘‘It was certainly a winning and successful formula.
‘‘We conceded three goals for the entire tournament, which I think is a Champions Trophy record.’’
From a personal perspective, Bazeley was ‘‘very happy’’ with the way he played, not letting in any goals while he was on the pitch.
‘‘I have been told it is the first time a goalkeeper has played every game of a Champions Trophy and not conceded a goal,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ll take that, it’s a nice little feather in the cap, but it’s not something I really worry or think about.
‘‘I did what I had to do, but we have an awesome defence around us which probably makes us look a lot better than what we are.’’
Bazeley, who turns 29 next month, said it was a little strange interchanging with Charter for halves in every game.
‘‘But it is better than the alternative of not playing at all,’’ he said.
‘‘I am playing for my country and any opportunity I can get I will take it with both hands.’’
Adapting to the speed of the game when coming on in the second half was the most challenging aspect, Bazeley said.
‘‘When you start in the first half, you build into the game and everyone does it together,’’ he said.
‘‘The second half usually picks up where the first left off and if you’re not up to speed you can find yourself on the back foot and be a goal down.
‘‘You need a lot of mental strength to come on in the second half.
‘‘We (the goalkeepers) spoke to the sport psychologist about how to overcome that.
‘‘For me, my preparation worked and I continued with it.’’
The way the goalkeepers were rotated — playing the second half of one match and the first half of the next match — Bazeley knew Charter would start in the final, meaning Bazeley was in goals during the extra time.
‘‘The way that it panned out
Playing in front of such a raucous sell-out crowd in Melbourne also provided its own highlights, Bazeley said.
‘‘You do notice it, with friends and family you recognise from home, cheering your name and wishing you well,’’ he said.
‘‘I think we all took great support from that. It is one of the luxuries of playing at home.
‘‘The last two days was sold out and the stadium was at capacity. Knowing everyone there is supporting you, it gives you an extra leg.’’
Seeing Echuca-Moama Hockey Club president Mick Gulson and ‘‘a lot of kids from the Echuca hockey club’’ after the game gave him a boost as well, Bazeley said.
‘‘It was awesome seeing people from where I started support me,’’ he said.
‘‘Speaking to them and how proud they were of their club and their new ground, and where hockey could go in the area is a wonderful thing.
‘‘Echuca has a soft spot in my heart and it was just wonderful seeing the effort they made to come and watch us, see me and speak to me after the games.’’
The win marks a celebratory time for Bazeley, who is returning to live in Melbourne after spending many years in Perth.
‘‘The plan is to try a different approach and fulfil a few personal objectives,’’ he said.
‘‘I want to finish my uni degree and I’ve bought a house in Melbourne.
‘‘Focus on a few things outside of my hockey, which I’ve probably neglected in the past few years.’’
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