Hockey Australia has continued to invest in Goulburn local Ben Staines, who was named in the Men's 2021 National Development Squad for the second year running.
The squad, Hockey Australia said, "comprises athletes knocking on the door of the Kookaburras squad.
"Athletes in the National Development Squad are identified as potential incumbents for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, 2023 World Cup in India and Paris Olympics in 2024."
Due to a relative lack of competitive hockey in 2020 - with the Olympics postponed and Hockey One cancelled - there was only one new addition to the NDS: Victoria's Damon Steffens.
"I've been in contact with the coaching staff and they said nothing really was going to change between this year's spot and last year's," Staines said.
"We've been limited this year due to COVID in what we can do, so there's not been too many changes."
Regardless of how little hockey was played in 2020, it was still a momentous year for Staines, who travelled to Perth in October to take part in a Kookaburras 'super camp'.
The goal of this camp was to update the national squad due to the postponement of the Olympics. Though Staines was not added to the side, he thoroughly enjoyed his time among the Kookaburras and picked up some valuable feedback.
"It was awesome, I loved it," he said.
"It was next-level hockey over there. I was pretty happy with how I went, obviously I didn't do well enough to be promoted into the Kookaburras but I got a bit of feedback on some little things that I can work on."
With no international hockey scheduled for the Kookaburras between now and the Olympics, Staines knows it would have been a risk on Hockey Australia's part to drop him straight into the squad.
However, he hopes that a strong showing in the coming winter season and a good Hockey One campaign will further strengthen his bid if and when regular international hockey resumes.
"After Hockey One this year, I'll do my best and my goal is to maybe get selected then," Staines said.
"I have a feeling I might have a shot after the Olympics, if I push myself I'll hopefully be promoted then, or at least get some more training with them."
Staines is one of 17 players named in the NDS, and due to COVID all players selected will train individually at their home National Training Centre programs under the guidance of the national program coaches.
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