Australia's "Sultana Bran Hockey One" - What is it?

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Hockey One, in a nut shell: 8 weeks of games, where a team from each "state" or "territory" from Australia goes head to head in a home and away National League.

The tag line for this event; "Real Hockey, Reimagined."

So, what's different about Hockey One?

Up until this year, the state competition has been called AHL - which stands for the Australian Hockey League. This competition, with the exception of 2018 has always consisted of each state/territory playing against each other in a 10 day competition running over two weekends.

This year saw a brand new competition in Australia. The Sultana Bran Hockey One League saw seven men’s and seven women’s teams compete against each other. The teams were:

- Adelaide Fire - Brisbane Blaze - Canberra Chill - HC Melbourne - NSW Pride - Perth Thundersticks - Tassie Tigers

This left the Northern Territory as the only state/territory without a representative team in the H1League.

Each team has 3 double headers at home, and 3 double headers away, competing against each other team once in a home and away series. For more information on the nitty gritty, check out the Sultana Bran Hockey One website.

Images taken by J.Stephens-Carlos photography

The finals took place at the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Melbourne, with both Brisbane sides going for gold, against Melbourne Hockey Club in the women's and New South Wales Pride in the men's.

The men were up first. After a relatively even first half, Blaze had scored one penalty corner, and NSW Pride had capitalised on a field goal, converting their 1 on 1 chance which took them into the second half leading by two to one. With only one goal for NSW in the third quarter that they failed to convert, the game was 3-1, and very tight going into the last quarter. Just one goal and conversion for the Blaze was all they needed to level the game.

With two quick goals and conversions, the score more than doubled giving NSW a 7-1 lead and less than ten minutes on the clock. Brisbane hit back with a goal + conversion, and took their keeper off, but a last second open goal to the Pride sealed the game at a whopping 8-3.

Next came the women's final... a lower scoring game, with many chances for either team, saw the result level at 1-1 going into the final quarter. Hockey Melbourne were awarded a penalty stroke, with 4 minutes to go, and after a phenomenal save by the Blaze keeper, the game went to a shootout to decide the winner.

It was an incredibly tense finish. The score remained a draw at 2-2 after the first round of 5 penalties each, taking the girls into a sudden death shootout. Melbourne's Ratcliffe was denied her goal by the Blaze keeper yet again, and Blaze's Rosie Malone found the back of the net to end the game.

Check out the shoot out between Brisbane Blaze and Hockey Melbourne in the final here:

& the goals from both games here:

We sat down with Australian International players and GRYPHONPack Aran Zalewski and Edwina Bone to talk all things Hockey One - to get their insight into this unique tournament.

How did the new longer format of Hockey ONE benefit you and your team?

Aran Zalewski - Thundersticks "The fact that Hockey ONE is played over a longer period of time definitely allows the group to grow and improve over the 6-8 weeks, whereas before, with a two week tournament, turnaround for games was really difficult. We now have a full week to get ready, debrief our last match. Moving forward I think the approach of Hockey One is great for the games and also really good for crowds.

People were also able to purchase memberships which allowed them to come out for 3 alternate weekends, giving them some consistency to see top level hockey which was a great part of the hockey one league."

Image taken by Terry Lewis

Edwina Bone - Canberra Chill "Due to the National players having to play in the Olympic Qualifiers, it’s definitely helped us to have imports this year. I mean ideally you want to learn from your own International players, for example I want to go back and show the girls how hard we work to be in the National Programme, but this year because we weren’t able to do that, it really helped having the Japanese girls. Even just in the warm up, the girls were amazed with how thorough the Japanese girls did theirs and we adapted and learned from them which was quite fun, and influenced us in a positive way..... The girls even showed them kangaroos! They are literally everywhere in Canberra so instead of going to a zoo they just took them to a Paddock where there were like 20 kangaroos... and we had to stop them from going over and patting them!

I found Hockey One good in the fact that Canberra got to host home games, and the crowds were amazing. There were up to 800 or 1,000 spectators per game which is awesome, and I can’t remember that ever happening at AHL. The way they advertised it with memberships was so cool, and people came wearing our teams caps and scarves, it was really special to have that atmosphere."

What were the biggest challenges you and your team faced with this tournament?

Edwina Bone "This year probably wasn’t ideal because if we’d won Oceania Cup (due to coming second in the Oceania Cup to New Zealand, the HockeyRoos had to play a second round of qualification games for the Olympic Games which coincided with the Hockey One League) we’d have been able to play with Canberra for the whole competition. Instead, I only played two games which were the first game and the semis. This is why the 3 Japanese girls coming over added so much to our team and gave the girls in Canberra some really good knowledge in terms of what it's like to play National and International level. There were a few girls that were given opportunities to play when Kalindi Commerford, Brooke Peris and myself were unavailable to play, so for them to be exposed to play with International players each week was a really good experience for them."

Aran Zalewski "The biggest challenge was the length of the hockey season. Hockey One runs immediately after the club season, which means a lot of the guys were pretty fatigued by the end of the year. The other thing about the length of the competition was that the travel had too short a turnaround. We’d have to fly so close to the game time, and also fit training in. We played a double header one weekend where we played in two different states over 3 days which is pretty unique to the Hockey One league. If you look at other professional sports, they wouldn’t be having to do that."

What do you think of having only 14 players per team?

Edwina Bone "Having only 14 players was interesting…. as opposed to the standard 16. The two games I played I didn’t get a sub unless I got a card…..

I think it would be beneficial if we could have more players on the bench even if we didn’t use them. For a little state like Canberra, to be able to bring other girls away and give them that exposure to the national level could be beneficial. When you add 3 Japanese girls and 3 national squad players, add in some development girls you are only left with 2-3 Canberra fringe players. It would give the girls the experience to be a part of the meetings, hear analysis and learn from the girls. For example when we were in Canberra, we were able to do this because we were able to have all 22 squad players stay with the group all the way up until the match. I am sure it would be different for each state, but especially for Canberra, being able to bring more players along would be great to give the girls more experience and exposure to this kind of tournament."

Aran Zalewski "The environment you play in can often dictate how difficult or easy a game might be. In October and November when conditions can be 30 degrees in Australia, I think with 14 players in this heat in the middle of the day, they can be very challenging conditions. We saw over the course of the tournament that quite a few guys got soft tissue injuries, so whether that was because of the loading, conditions or preparation, there were certainly more injuries than I'd seen in a hockey competition before. I guess this means you get to see the players playing under fatigue, which may open up more opportunities for goals towards the end of the game. I'm not sure how many games turned towards the end of the game because of this, but perhaps it's what the spectators want to see."

Do you think the 1 on 1s for every field goal is good for the game?

Image taken by J.Stephens-Carlos photography

Aran Zalewski "The most interesting thing about the 1 on 1s is how it can reduce the significance of corners, and provide teams with the opportunity to inflate your score. Suddenly 2 field goals can create a 4-0 lead for the team that converts their field goals.

On the other hand you can feel like you're always in the game knowing that you can score two goals quite quickly, which is probably something different that you would see in a normal game of Hockey. From my point of view this is something that didn't quite play into our hands. If we were to go by standard hockey rules we would have won our second game against Canberra which might have made things look quite a bit different in the tournament.

You certainly have to factor this into your training. We incorporated this where each person practised 2-3 at the end of every session because anyone who scored has to do it, which means everyone needs to have that skill."

Edwina Bone "I love the 1 on 1s for every field goal. I really like that the person that scores has to take it. It gives people the expectation to have that skill to back up once they’ve scored, to go and score again. It makes sure that everyone has the ability to put themselves in that position to back themselves in a 1 on 1. It definitely is better for the crowd. Everything stops and you get to watch the 1 on 1, which makes it more exciting.

I'm not sure if it would work internationally, but at our tournament it is definitely good to get more people interested. It’s also good for goalkeepers to get a more exciting part in the game. We always made sure we practised them at the end of each session, splitting the group into two and having a 1 on 1 competition between our team. So yeah, I think it’s been a great addition to Hockey One."

Next year looks to be the same if not more exciting. Make sure to stay up to date with Hockey One 2020 right here:

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