Hockey one

By Joe Novella Photos Gary Sissons

Australia is a superpower in the world of hockey. Our national men’s team – the Kookaburras – and the women’s Hockeyroos are consistently in the top four nations in the world, winning multiple Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medals and numerous World Championships. In fact, the Kookaburras are recognised as one of the most consistently successful Australian sports teams over the last 30 years. Despite all that success, the game has struggled at the local levels, often in the shadow of the more traditional sports like AFL, cricket, netball and soccer.

Maybe it’s the impression hockey is a dangerous sport that makes parents wary of signing up their children or keeps adults from taking up the sport. There are sticks flying in all directions, a ball travelling at incredible speed and the thwack of wood on wood when tackles are made making the game sound more like a battle than a sport. However, according to Chris Wall, President of the Frankston Hockey Club, the impression that hockey is a dangerous sport could not be further from the truth.

“From personal experience and the data collected nationally, hockey itself is a relatively safe sport. If we look at the 2016/17 data pre-Covid, hockey sits on par with basketball injury rates at around 2.5% of participants experiencing a serious injury. We use protective equipment and teach safe play from the first stages of hockey to minimise risk of injury to members and other participants.

“And another myth I’m happy to bust,” continued Mr Wall, “is that hockey is not for everyone. We have members who start at six years old and play all the way up to 65 years. There are even leagues for 80 year olds and we’ll enter a team in that league as our members move closer to that age bracket.”

The Peninsula is a hotspot for hockey with multiple clubs setting up their bases in the area, and with Frankston Hockey Club being one of the oldest. “Our club, Frankston Hockey Club (FHC), was established in 1973 and originally known as the Seahorses before becoming The Stingrays,” said Mr Wall. “FHC has called several locations home including Mentone, Seaford and finally Frankston itself, with potential moves to expand our current base or add another facility elsewhere should we continue to grow.”

And speaking of growth, FHC has recovered from a recent lull to experiencing a resurgence in interest. “In 2018 we experienced our lowest registration of members in 10 years which was 157,” said Mr Wall. “Over the last five seasons, we’ve worked tirelessly with our member base to improve the club culture and create a space where people feel welcomed, supported and enjoy their hockey. This internal reflection and improvement plan has seen us make significant changes, and that has brought growth, reaching 237 registered members in 2022. We’re working to bring that to 250+ by mid 2023.

“Driving those numbers has been a substantial growth within the junior and women’s sections. These programs have been most successful; we’ve even had one of our own juniors, Emily Hamilton-Smith, progress through the ranks to represent Australia at U21 level. In 2022 the club had close to 40% of its members playing women’s hockey which aligns with our goal of offering social, competitive and semi-competitive teams to all age groups and genders and all levels from beginners to elite level.”

Inclusion and diversity is a big theme at FHC with the club looking at ways to include an all-abilities format in their programs. The club will also be represented at the Stand Out Cup in Footscray in February 2023, hosted by Hockey Victoria to support the stamping out of homophobic and non-inclusive behaviour. “I’m proud to participate in a sport that has educated, acknowledged and provided a space for everyone and anyone to participate in hockey,” said Mr Wall. “Diversity runs rich within the veins of hockey and FHC is no exception to this.”

The hard work FHC has put in to grow the club and sport in the area was recently acknowledged by the peak body Hockey Victoria, whose CEO, Mr Andrew Skillern commented, “On behalf of Hockey Victoria we have been very impressed with the strategic development and growth of Frankston HC over the past five years. FHC is one of only four clubs in Melbourne which have grown since pre-pandemic. This is a credit to the leadership and FHC, and their capacity to embrace change, new initiatives and their strong engagement with their members. Providing welcoming and inclusive environments in the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula areas are of critical importance in growing the game into the future through the region.”

So if you’re looking for a way to keep active in a safe and supportive environment, Frankston Hockey Club might just be your ticket. Depending on age group and competition type, fees range from $200-$600 per winter season with senior fees being the higher end.

In terms of equipment, the club can help out.

“We collect and hold equipment for members to use,” said Mr Wall. “We encourage anyone willing to have a go to use our on-hand equipment as they learn. This minimises the upfront cost and gives them a chance to experience hockey without buying a new stick.”

And playing isn’t the only benefit of FHC membership; the club has a very healthy social scene with regular events like trivia nights and club dinners. The club also invests in its volunteers offering a range of workshops to personally develop leadership skills, first aid, responsible serving of alcohol, and more to equip them with skills to improve their experience beyond the hockey world.

From the outside, Frankston Hockey Club seems very much a place where everyone is welcome, like a big family, a sentiment borne out by the club President, Mr Wall. “We call ourselves a family club because each year we become bigger, stronger and better equipped to provide physical and mental health support and continue to develop skills and awareness through club organised programs to build confidence. To add to that, we have parents and children who play at the club and often play in the same team!”

About the only limitation to the continued growth of the club is space to practice and play with ongoing discussions with Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Councils as well as Hockey Victoria and Monash University hopefully leading to a plan to cater for the club’s future growth.

And if you want to be part of that growth, you can find all the details on how to join at their website

L-R Andrew Skillern (CEO Hockey Victoria) & Chris Wall (President Frankston Hockey Club).

Peninsula Essence – March 2023