Kookaburras striker and Perth local Trent Mitton has issued a rallying cry for West Australians to turn up in droves when they tackle Olympic Champions Argentina on March 6 and 7 in the FIH Pro League.
With little over 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics begin, the Kookaburras will be out to inflict some psychological wins ahead of their quest for a second ever men’s gold medal.
“The Argentinians are the reigning Olympic Champions and have only had a few changes to their team from 2016,” said Mitton.
“They are really experienced with a heap of guys that have played 250-300 games and they have the best drag flicker in the world as well, so no doubt it will be good watching.”
“Last year for the Pro League in Perth we played Great Britain and it was one of the best crowds we had.”
“There were a lot of people out on the hill which spurred us on to raise our performance and we now have got the new turf which has been laid down at the Perth Hockey Centre, so hopefully another big crowd turns out because it will be quality sporting entertainment.”
Tickets prices represent huge value in the event that Kookaburras co-captain Eddie Ockenden equals Jamie Dwyer’s national record of 365 caps in Friday night’s game and then goes on the break the record on Saturday, March 7.
“I’ve been fortunate to play almost every one of my 170 international games with Eddie, which has been pretty cool and it’s an amazing achievement to play that many games at the level that he’s been playing at consistently,” said Mitton.
“More than anything, he’s played every position on the field. When he first started he was a forward, during most of my career he’s been a midfielder and only in the last couple of years he’s transitioned to a defender and he gets nominated for World Player of the Year!”
But first Ockenden, Mitton and co must tackle a rampaging India in front of their hockey-mad home crowd this weekend.
“They are in top form. With wins against Holland and Belgium in consecutive weekends, a confident India is always tough to play against, particularly in front of their home crowd,” said Mitton.
“We’ll do our homework on them and then start focusing in on us in the lead up to Friday and Saturday’s games.”
Mitton first travelled to India for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and says India’s playing style suits him.
“Personally, I’ve only lost once or twice during my ten-year career so far and scored a few goals. I quite like playing against them because their players don’t mind running the ball and I back myself to take it off them, so hopefully I can do that and score a few more this weekend.”
Mitton, 29, admits he was disappointed to miss the opening Pro League games last month but returned with a bang, scoring in both games against Great Britain.
“I had some good conversations with the coaches when I missed selection against Belgium where they weren’t happy with my back end of 2019 which was fair enough, so I had a bit of a point to prove against GB and my job is to score goals, so it was nice to find the back of the net.”
The third-generation Kookaburras forward says despite 170 games and 77 goals, it still niggles at him that an Olympic Games doesn’t appear on his hockey resume but feels he’s worked out what brings out his best.
“That’s one thing dad was able to do (play at the Olympics in 1984), not that he ever reminds me, but we’ve identified that I play my best when I’m relaxed so he tries to remind me of that often and to back myself and play with speed whenever I can,” said Mitton.
“I’ve also dropped a bit of weight and muscle bulk in this Olympic cycle because the game has changed, and you need to get up and down the field really quickly. Previously I moulded my game on being bigger than other guys and more physical, but I think an asset of mine lately has been my speed and repeat sprint efforts.”
Australian hockey fans can catch Mitton and his teammates LIVE in action on Friday March 6 and Saturday March 7, in what will be their penultimate home Pro League games before Tokyo 2020.
Story by Adam Clifford