Hockey mainstay Ockenden flags fourth gold

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Murray Wenzel / AAP News

 

The all-time Kookaburras games record holder is aiming for his fourth gold medal.

 

Eddie Ockenden’s teammates have finally spotted a flaw in the Kookaburra’s technique.

Fortunately it came while bearing the Australian flag at the opening ceremony and not on Birmingham University’s blue hockey field, where the Australian men will look to extend their incredible Commonwealth Games record this weekend.

“We were talking about his flag wave,” teammate and good friend Jeremy Hayward said of the flag bearer, who shared the honour with squash great Rachael Grinham and struggled at times as the flag knotted around the pole at Alexander Stadium.

“It was a bit difficult to share the pole, but he did well.

“It was a special moment, anĀ unreal moment to watch him lead the 500 of us out.”

Ockenden is in his fourth Commonwealth campaign and, ahead of Saturday’s semi-final against England, is yet to lose a single game.

He’ll tell you it’s a team effort, with Australia boasting a remarkable 39-1 since the sport was added for the 1998 edition.

A loss to South Africa in that debut year has been their only stumble, the Kookaburras laughing to all six titles.

Tasmanian Ockenden began his career as a brilliantly skilled striker, but has morphed into the side’s defensive anchor and took them within one goal of a second Olympic gold last year in Tokyo.

A heartbreaking loss in shoot-outs to Belgium meant silver and left Ockenden at short odds to return for another crack at Paris 2024.

Ockenden said he relished the honour of leading the Australian team out at the opening ceremony.

“It’ll be really cool looking back on it; no-one was in front, we were first on the track, but to look behind and give the whole team a thumbs up, was really cool for the sport of hockey,” Ockenden said of his moment last week.

“We’ve been really successful as a team and it (was about celebrating) the history of the team, that’s what it meant for me.

“What I would have thought, as a kid, a hockey playe r, wanting to go to the Olympics and Comm games, that ‘s all I wanted to do,

“So thinking about what we’re doing now, you have to make the most of it because it’s ‘dream come true’ kind of stuff.”

He said their awesome Commonwealth record didn’t add a weight of expectation.

“It’s a little bit about that and we love our amazing history, our past players but it’s a completely new team so it doesn’t affect us here, it’s just about us now,” Ockenden said.

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