Kookaburra calling: Miller to debut

YEARS as an understudy, fulltime work, six training sessions a week and a move 3700km to Perth.

Josh Miller’s worked his backside off in pursuit of a place in the Australian team. By 2.30pm on December 1, his goal will be realised.

The former Mulwaree High School student is one of 18 men in the Kookaburras Champions Trophy squad set to take on the world’s seven best hockey nations in Melbourne.

A routine scan of emails on October 31 delivered the good news. A message from Hockey Australia confirmed Miller’s selection in the Kookaburras Champions Trophy squad.

“I started shaking when I read the email,” he said.

“It was a surprise. I’ve waited a long time to get a go, I wasn’t holding my breath.”

One name missing from the list of 18 was Glenn Turner. The Goulburn Mulwaree Council waste water management plant employee and bronze medallist from London is sidelined after surgery last month. He hopes to be back to full training by January.

Even without Turner, one of the Kookaburras best in London, the Australians enter the tournament favourites.

As a team, they’re inspired by an upset Olympic Games semi-final defeat to Germany. As an individual, Miller is determined to secure a regular place in Ric Charlesworth’s team.

Strong performances may not only give the 26-year-old a share in the Champions Trophy, one of the four most prestigious competitions in world hockey, it could lay the platform for stints at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Even so, Miller, who works as an air-conditioning mechanic in Perth to make ends meet, isn’t looking too far ahead.

“The way the team works is on rotation,” he said.

“If I get into the match day 16, then I’ll get game time. I need to make the most of that.”

The debutant is about to be thrown into the deep end of international hockey. The Kookaburras face Belgium, the Netherlands and Pakistan in their opening three Champions Trophy matches.

Should the Australians advance to knockout stages they can expect to face nemesis Germany, the team that quashed Australia’s gold medal hopes at London with a 4-2 semi-final victory.

Miller, who wasn’t a part of the Olympic squad, isn’t daunted by the prospect of matching it with the reigning gold medallists.

“The nature of being an athlete is that you want to reach the next step,” he said.

“I know for the other guys, there was disappointment they didn’t get a shot at the gold. That’s what’s driving them, it’s all about what we can do to improve. That’s been the focus for us at training.”

Before Hockey Australia officials become fixated on the Champions Trophy, they’ll be absorbed by the women’s International nine-a-side Super Series in Perth.

Crookwell’s Emily Smith was named in Australia’s under 21s team for the tournament.

She’s eager to build on impressive performances for the Hockeyroos at the London Olympic Games.

In a double-dose of good news for the hockey-centric town, Kellie White was this month named in the Hockeyroos 2013 squad.

White missed out on a place at the Olympic Games after sustaining an injury during a training session in February.

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