Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Higgins gives back to grassroots hockey

Matthew Higgins is passing on his expertise and knowledge to young Goulburn Valley Hockey Association players.

MATTHEW GALEA December 19, 2013 4:10am

Matthew Higgins passes on some words of advice to Jack Wellington.

McEwen Reserve has a special place in Matthew Higgins’ heart.

For Higgins, it is where his hockey career started and today it is where he is giving back to the district hockey community that game him so much.

From his first days on the pitch as part of the Minkey hockey program, it is where Higgins acquired all the skills he would need to eventually progress to Australian Hockey League, where he played for the Victorian Vikings for 10 years, as well as his 15-year stint in Victorian Premier League with Altona Hockey Club that continues to this day.

‘‘I happened to go to Shepparton Youth Club after Minkey hockey and we were lucky there because we had people who actually knew how to play, how to hold a stick and it was good fun,’’ Higgins said.

Making his senior debut at 13, Higgins was part of a legendary squad that went on to win 10 of the club’s 15 premierships, before moving to Melbourne where he landed at Altona as a sprightly 19-year-old, where he has made 292 appearances and scored 48 goals from full-back.

‘‘They’re the oldest club in the Premier League and have been around for 72 years and only one other player has surpassed (300 games), so it would be a huge honour,’’ he said.

Following the death of his father, Higgins returned to Shepparton to take over the family business, Higgins Bakery, continuing his career at Altona from his home town, where he donates his time to Goulburn Valley Hockey Association during the Premier League off-season to run a 10-session clinic alongside Ian Ritchie.

‘‘You can’t be a super hockey player without being able to hit, trap and pass and the difference between the Australian players and those that don’t play for Australia is just that they do those things better,’’ Higgins said.

‘‘We’re trying to get them to do those things here, or get them to at least understand the importance of those basics.’’

Higgins said he felt there had not been much progression in the district game since leaving for Melbourne, but the talent around gave much hope for the future of the sport and its development.

‘‘There are some massively talented kids here,’’ Higgins said.

‘‘The parents have been wonderful for putting their hands up and trying to help out, but the kids really need those people that have learnt to play hockey and know the skills to be able to put back into the game,’’ Higgins said.

‘‘The people I played with at SYC have mostly moved on and all the knowledge those guys who won 10, 12 or 13 premierships isn’t filtering back down through the grades.

‘‘I’m trying to help give some of that knowledge back (to parents as well as kids) and any time I can, I’m willing to help out.’’

Higgins said he saw plenty of players who could make the grade in the larger metropolitan competitions and he hoped his contacts would help kids interested in testing themselves at that level to find a suitable club.

Higgins also said the importance of a new pitch for the GVHA could not be underestimated.

‘‘It will rejuvenate hockey,’’ Higgins said.

‘‘You’d be able to have games on Friday night, right up to Sunday night across, instead of just having the one pitch and having to spread games out one after the other ... it would help the game grow dramatically and create a real buzz.’’

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