Matthew Butturini has made an impact with the Kookaburras, with Hockey Australia saying he plays “as though he has been in the squad for years”.
Matthew Butturini has made an impact with the Kookaburras, with Hockey Australia saying he plays “as though he has been in the squad for years”.

Eyes on the prize

BURRINGBAR hockey prodigy Matthew Butturini’s remarkable year continues, with the star defender set to contest the Champions Trophy with the Kookaburras in Melbourne at the end of the month.

A veteran of 17 international caps since debuting for Australia earlier this year, the 22-year-old appears to have cemented a spot in defence among a host of fresh faces named in Ric Charlesworth’s emerging 18-man squad.

The Kookaburras are defending champions of the tournament, having won the 2008 Champions Trophy on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, and Butturini is keen to get his hands on the prize.

“After being named earlier in the year the main aim was to be picked again and retain my spot, so I’m very happy to be playing,” he said.

“I would have loved to lift the trophy last year, but that’s more incentive to play well and help win it this year.

“Great Britain could be a dark horse and I think Germany may be up there, but any one of the top six teams could win.

“We have to be on our game day-in day-out or we could lose one and mess up everything.”

After a year of experimenting with the squad, in which 14 players made their international debuts, Charlesworth has opted for a mix of young guns and Olympic gold medallists – Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles, Liam De Young, Brent Livermore and Rob Hammond.

Overall six 2009 debutants – George Bazeley, Graeme Begbie, Matthew Swann, Brent Dancer, Glenn Turner and Butturini – along with rising stars Matthew Swann and Brent Dancer, will take the field as Charlesworth looks to build his side for the future.

“There was a range of players in contention and I think the selection is part of searching for those players who will compete at the World Cup next year,” Charlesworth said. “Playing in the Champions Trophy will give each player an opportunity to confirm their quality otherwise there will be someone there to take their spot.”

Butturini knows he’ll have to be consistent throughout the Champions Trophy to make the cut for the 2010 squad.

“I always have to be on my game, play well, and show them I can play at the top level,” he said.

“I’ve played almost 20 games for Australia now, and I think I have really grown as a player, particularly in terms of speed and technical aspects of the game.”

The squad will compete in a two-Test series against Spain in Perth this weekend to complete their preparations.

Spain knocked Australia out of gold medal contention at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Kookaburras will be out for a little revenge.

Meanwhile fellow Tweed Border Hockey product Jason Wilson has been named at striker in Australian A side, which will also compete in the Champions Trophy.

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