Kookaburra to prepare for a eventful year

MATTHEW Butturini's inclusion as the youngest member in the Australian Kookaburra's squad means the Burringbar young gun will have a hectic year ahead of him.

The 22-year-old must juggle the honour of representing club and country with the responsibility of completing the final year of his Science degree at Sydney University.

“It's certainly going to be a balancing act for the next few months,” Butturini said. “However, it's great knowing that all my hard work and sacrifice has paid off, that it was all worth while.

“Everything has just fallen into place and worked out well for me.”

National coach Ric Charlesworth contacted Butturini with the good news at about 10am Tuesday morning while he was visiting family on the Tweed.

However the news came with a catch - Butturini wouldn't be travelling with the rest of the squad to Europe.

“It's disappointing not to go to Europe, but there is life after hockey,” Butturini said.

“I would have been away for the final three weeks of semester and returned a day before exams began, so it was decided that I would continue training but concentrate on uni when necessary this year.

“Ric assured me that there will be plenty of chances in the future.”

The talented centre-half debuted for the Kookaburra's against the Netherlands in January.

“The actual game is a bit of a blur now,” he said.

“I remember not being able to sleep the night the before, but once I got out there I was fine... although losing wasn't the best way to start.

“What surprised me most was that the game was intense, but I never felt that I couldn't cope with the pace.”

And Holland may be where Butturini next ventures after he was recently offered a lucrative three-month deal to play in the Dutch national league.

That's a long way from home for a guy who began his trade with Tweed Border Hockey side Waratahs when he was just five years old.

From under-12s through to under-18s he didn't miss a state selection and his amazing ability and consistency had national selectors interested .

By under-16s, Butturini was playing for the Australian All-Schools outfit, before being offered a NSW Institute of Sport scholarship at 18 and soon becoming an Australian under-21s regular.

“I come from a family and area where hockey is a big deal and a proud tradition, so I grew up with it,” Butturini said.

“The difference between hockey on the Tweed and in Sydney isn't so much the coaching but the quality of the games; when all the guys are at that level it challenges you more and helps you better yourself.”

Now it's training at least five days a week and in the gym thrice, but being a true professional he wouldn't have it any other way.

“Hockey encompasses most aspects of sport; you must be fit, agile, strong, everything,” Butturini said.

“You must maintain that peak fitness all the time, because you can have the best skills etcetera but not be fit enough to play at this level.”

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