Emerging Western Australian hockey talent Matthew Bird has been included in the 2018 Australian national senior men’s squad.
The Coolbellup resident joins recent squad member Jake Harvie, along with further established internationals from WA including; Tristan Clemons, Tyler Lovell, Trent Mitton, Tom Wickham and Aran Zalewski.
The Kookaburras will be looking to build on a strong end to 2017, which included winning the FIH World League title, International Festival of Hockey and Oceania Cup as well as re-claiming the world number one ranking.
The Selection Panel considered a number of priorities upon selecting the squad, with a long-term development view to medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics along with achieving performance benchmarks at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April and the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar in November-December.
The Selection Panel also looked to reward impressive performances within the daily training environment and national/international matches throughout 2017.
Kiran Arunasalam, Ben Craig and Casey Hammond have been moved into the National Men’s Development Squad, while Andrew Philpott, Josh Pollard and Matthew Willis have been omitted.
Kookaburras head coach Colin Batch said: "We’ve selected a group that we want to see reach its potential for Tokyo.
"We’ve selected a number of younger players that have come through our junior programme. We want to give them an opportunity to grow over the 12-month period and see where they are at the end of the year.
"Four of the six have already tasted international experience with us. All six players added have exciting qualities for the future.
"We had some success towards the end of the year with our programme. We’ve had a lot of changes this year and next year creates a whole different range of challenges for us.
"We know the Commonwealth Games is very important as is the World Cup at the end of the year.
"We’ve taken some steps this year but we know we need to improve a lot if we’re going to have success in those major tournaments next year.”
Western Australian South-West product Harvie, 19, debuted against New Zealand in Bendigo at the International Festival of Hockey (IFOH) in November, before being included in the World League Final team which triumphed in India.
"We saw Jake’s qualities as a deep defender and he’s now played 12 games for Australia,” Batch said. "He’s learning a lot and coped well with the pressures of the World League Final. He’s an exciting prospect for the future.”
Western Australian utility Bird, 20, plays for Fremantle in Perth and is also uncapped at international level.
"He can play in midfield or up front,” Batch said. "He’s got a mature body already and has a big engine. He can create from the midfield. We’re interested to see how he can develop over the next 12 months.”