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Little brother's time to shine at Oceania Cup

20 October 2015

HOCKEY: You would assume the 2015 World League Semi Final top goal scorer was a seasoned senior hockey player with years of international playing experience under his belt.

Well, it is quite the opposite for the awardee, Blake Govers, who only made his senior international debut a month before the hotly contested tournament.

With 11 goals in 13 international games, the 19-year-old may be well on his way to becoming an Australian hockey legend but he won’t forget where it all started in home-town Wollongong.

Growing up in ‘The Gong’ gave Govers a fantastic platform to start his sporting career, with a strong hockey community that allowed him to experiment with his playing style and try new things constantly.

Being the youngest in a family of four boys, also encouraged Govers to follow in his big brothers Hayden, Kieran and Scott’s footsteps.

“Growing up with my brothers used to push me to be better, but nothing was ever forced,” said Govers.

“Once I did start making teams and drawing my own path, my brothers and parents helped support me and gave me the confidence I needed.”

As a fresh-faced 17-year-old, Govers moved to England in 2014 where he played for Wimbledon in the England Champions League.

He made an immediate impact for the side and was extremely valuable in the final as he scored five goals to lead his side to the Championship.

This high-class playing experience set Govers up to take on the senior hockey world, and the 19-year-old progressed from the 2015 National Development squad to the National team where he joined older brother and dual Olympian Kieran in the side.

After years of playing alongside each other at home in Albion Park, the Govers brothers were able to pull on the green and gold together for the first time.

As a special treat to their family, Kieran presented his little brother with his first playing shirt when Blake made his debut at the Hobart International Challenge.

“I was balling my eyes out… in front of all of the Kookaburras players, coaching staff and my family,” he said.

For Blake, representing Australia at the Olympic Games was his personal plan all along, but added inspiration came from Kieran’s bronze medal at the London 2012 Games.

“It was already my dream to go the Olympic Games, but no doubt it has given me more motivation to one day hopefully get onto that Olympic Team.”

Blake was quick to prove he was up to the senior standard, scoring a goal on debut and another seven at the World League Semi Finals in Antwerp to take home both the top scorer and best junior player awards.

The Kookaburras officially secured their Rio 2016 Olympic qualification after defeating England 3-1 in semi-finals in Antwerp, and later went on to defeat Belgium 1-0 in the tournament final.  

Despite this being his first major international tournament, Govers said he played without fear and focused on proving that he had rightfully earned selection in the side. 

“I was stoked to be out playing without fear, it allowed me to do what I was picked for,” said Govers.

“I definitely will not forget that major tournament though.”

This week, both the men’s and women’s hockey teams will travel to Stratford, New Zealand for the Oceania Cup, which in 2015 serves as a qualifying tournament for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The Aussie men will show no mercy to the Black Sticks, who need to win the cup to secure Olympic spot for New Zealand, and the selection of a strong team shut down any rumours that Australia would be providing any trans-Tasman favours.

Blake will be one of five players under the age of 22, with his only aim being consistent performances.

“I am just looking to have a consistent tournament, playing well and scoring flicks, helping me try and get that trophy!”

It is that drag flick that causes captain and three-time Olympian, Mark Knowles to describe Blake as “a young guy with huge potential.”

“His eye for goal and ability to score a range of goals makes him dangerous, but his biggest threat is his very powerful drag flick which is world class,” said Knowles.

Knowles says that Govers will continue to develop into a great hockey player in the lead up to the Rio Olympics.

“He is learning more about international hockey, the speed, defensive work and quality of defenders are all things he will continue to improve on over these next 300 days till Rio.”

It’s been a big year for Govers who has gone from watching his hockey idols like Knowles and Jamie Dwyer to playing alongside them and considering them mates.

“I remember watching video after video of them growing up, whenever Kieran played with or against them, watching only them and not the rest of the game,” said Govers’.

He now has to blink and remember they are team-mates.

“Coming into the team, they now have become mates of mine which is hard to believe that that can happen within a year.”

If Olympic selection is on the cards for Govers, stepping into the Rio athletes’ village will be an exciting moment.

“Being so young and fresh on the international scene, I will be like a tourist in the village.”

But Govers considers hockey “more than just a sport” and his love for the game will help him stay focused at the Games remembering how much of his life he has dedicated.

“I mould my life around hockey, which might not be for everyone but I feel incredibly grateful to be in the world’s number one team.”

The men’s Australian hockey team begin their Oceania Cup campaign tomorrow against Fiji at 9:30am (AEDT), while the Hockeyroos start at 11:30am (AEDT) on Thursday.

All Australian pool matches will be live streamed at hockeynz.co.nz/video 

Ashleigh Knight

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