After being told that he had missed out on selection for the Australia A side to play against the Kookaburras in Darwin last week, Jake Staines was not expecting the late notice call-up on Tuesday, July 6.
The Goulburn resident had been alerted roughly a month beforehand that he was on the shortlist of players who might be added to the squad, which was being put together to aid the Kookaburras' preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.
Though he was told a fortnight before the departure date that he was not in the squad, a late absence saw Staines called up just four days out.
"I'd been told that this is what's happening, and if I train pretty hard I had a shot," Staines said.
"On the Tuesday of last week, I got a message asking if I could get off work for the following week.
"Work's pretty flexible for me, so I said I'm happy to do it. I'd trained a fair bit leading up, so I was semi-prepared for it."
Delays to both his flight from Canberra to Adelaide and his subsequent flight from Adelaide to Darwin on Saturday, July 10, caused Staines to miss the initial training session that night, and was dropped in the deep end during the first match between Australia A and the Kookaburras the following afternoon.
It was the first of three matches between the sides last week, with one each on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Sunday's opener.
"I wasn't too happy about the first game, but in saying that, I probably only knew three or four of the guys in my team," Staines said.
"I think that plays a big part, in not knowing everyone. I was relatively happy with the second game, and the third game the legs were pretty heavy but I didn't go too bad.
"I was playing a bit out of position, but when you get asked, you tell them where you prefer to play but you do the best job you can in whatever position they throw you in."
Regardless, Staines was simply grateful for the opportunity to play against the number one team in the world ahead of its upcoming Olympic bid.
"I was a bit humbled and excited at the same time," he said. "You take what opportunities they give you and make the most of it."
And make the most of it Staines did. Though he is no stranger to the workings of representative hockey, the inside look at how a top international side operates opened Staines' eyes.
"I pulled away a lot of learning from the five days," he said.
"You see how they operate and train. They're professional athletes, that's what they do all the time and you see the expectations they've got.
"They play most days, and they have individual meetings and team meetings about everything they can. I suppose that's why they have the status they do in world hockey. They're number one in the world at the moment and it shows."
The experience motivated Staines to continue pushing for further national opportunities. Selection for Australia A, he said, was an indicator that he was moving in the right direction with his training and on-field performances.
"It gives you a good idea of where you're up to and where you need to be training and striving for," Staines said.
"Because it's one step below the Kookaburras, you want to be the pick of that squad."
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