Australian hockey receives $135m from WA for new facilities and player wellbeing

Hockeyroos, Kookaburras and wider community to benefit from world-class pitches at Perth centre after state government investment

Australian hockey has received one of the biggest investments in Olympic sports history as Western Australia commits more than $135m to a new world-leading facility and player wellbeing.

The WA government’s offering beat out bids from four other states to host the sport’s high-performance centre of excellence from 2025-2035.

Hockey Australia’s chief executive, David Pryles, said the centre would be “the best hockey facility in the world”.

As well as the $135m committed in capital investment for the performance centre, there will be further millions allocated to ensuring player wellbeing.

An athlete travel allowance program will allow players to remain connected to family and friends outside Perth, and a second full-time health and wellbeing manager will be employed.

The commitment comes two years since the women’s national program was rocked by allegations the players’ union described as “a toxic culture and bullying”. An independent review was launched in late 2020.

The organisation pledged to rebuild the entire elite program following recommendations, including to strike an improved balance with the demands of the high-performance program and life outside hockey.

Pryles said “we own those recommendations”.

The investments will focus on improving the player experience and ensuring players have no reason to worry off the field, Pryles said.

The new centre will include two world-class outdoor pitches, an indoor pitch, gym and recovery facilities, and new changing rooms, as well as a function centre and administrative facilities.

The hockey facility will be for the wider hockey community to use as well as the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras.

Pryles said it will cover all athletes’ needs “from as soon as they turn up to train until they go home – this is a larger investment than most AFL club facilities.”

“We’re really fortunate that it puts hockey not just on the map in Australia, but Australian hockey worldwide,” he said.

The state government’s investment through Hockey WA dwarfs the $15m deal the Victorian government struck to become the sponsor of Netball Australia for four-and-a-half years after Hancock Prospecting’s withdrawal.

Hockey is one of Australia’s most successful team sports with the male Kookaburras placed No 1 in the world and the female Hockeyroos at No 3.

WA has been the home of both programs since 1984 but with the deal set to end in 2024, Pryles said the latest round has proved the most competitive, thorough and independent bidding process in Hockey Australia’s history.

Expressions were open to all eight hockey member associations with five bids narrowed down to three from the ACT, Victoria and WA, which left Hockey Australia’s board with a “very hard” decision, Pryles said.

The chair of Hockey Australia, Ross Sudano, said the successful bid from WA will build on both teams’ recent successes.

“Our athletes are already performing at a high level with the recent men’s Olympic silver medal, and gold medal for the seventh straight time at the Commonwealth Games, the women’s silver in the Commonwealth Games, and bronze medal at the FIH Women’s World Cup and the Hockeyroos being a finalist in the team of the year category for the 2022 [Australian Institute of Sport] sport performance awards,” Sudano said.

Pryles said: “We want to continue to grow. The Kookaburras and the Hockeyroos are the most iconic names in Australian sport. Everyone watches them at the Commonwealth and Olympic games. We just want to get them watching more often.”

Contributor

Natasha May

The GuardianTramp

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