YOUNG ACHIEVER: Ben Hooppell heads to the big smoke

Ben Hooppell
Ben Hooppell

IT’S study time for Ben Hooppell.

The rising star of Border hockey has shifted to Melbourne — in part to start his science degree, in essence to pursue his dream of one day playing for the Kookaburras.

Hooppell is one of a select few to be on the Victorian Institute of Sport’s scholarship list and it is as much an education as is his time at Melbourne University.

His rise in the sport has been almost meteoric.

In 2010 the then 15-year-old was named Hockey Albury-Wodonga’s most promising goalkeeper and he still ranks his Sportsperson of the Year award at Albury High School and the Pierre de Coubertin Award among his favourite achievements.

Hooppell was the Victorian under-18 goalkeeper before being promoted into the under-21s at just 17 last year.

The long-term goal is to be part of the Australian team at the under-21 world titles in New Delhi in 2016.

“But the next 12 months is really about developing my skills in goalkeeping,” he said.

“The scholarship means I have access to all of the institute’s resources, elite level coaching and advice on strength and conditioning as well.

“It’s definitely a big step towards being on the national selectors’ radar, but the first hurdle is being selected in the Victorian under-21 team in late April and going to the nationals and doing well there.

“At the moment I’m probably a little way off being part of an Australian squad this year but I’ll give it a real crack.”

The move to Melbourne means seven sessions a week at the VIS as well as training for Premier League club Camberwell where he comes under the guidance of 162-game Kookaburra and three-time Olympian Lachlan Dreher.

“The institute stuff includes ball machine sessions, skill sessions and gym,” he said.

“At Camberwell I get to learn from Lachie, who is a legend of the game and only too willing to share his knowledge.

“The club has a great work ethic, which is essentially if you put in 100 per cent and prove yourself good enough, they will put you in the team.

“But whether I play premier league will be determined by the decision on Lachie’s playing future — it may be he is happy to play reserves rather than premier league.

“Only time will tell.”

Like another Norske Skog Young Achiever nominee, Jocelyn Bartram, it was fate that saw Hooppell end up in the goalmouth.

“I was really into sport from a young age,” he said.

“Dad got me into it and I’m really grateful for that now.

“I was playing in the field but the age team above me needed a keeper and because I’d played soccer before I just put my hand up — as a kid you just want to play all the time.

“After that they made me their permanent keeper — so I just kept playing field hockey in my age division and keeper in the age bracket above.”

The imposing Hooppell, 18, was invited to join an Australian Futures squad — seen by many as a stepping stone to the Kookaburras — in Brisbane in February.

He said it was intense — training and games taped to assess and review performance.

“During the training they were watching technique and making comments about how we could be better keepers,” he said.

“After the game they would look at the video and we would all take notes about the good and what we could have done better.

“A couple of people asked me what I did wrong and I’d list a whole stack of stuff but they’d say ‘I’m not sure you did that many things wrong’.

“But it’s important to critique yourself, understand your shortcomings.

“A lot of people might be a bit surprised but down here they want me to talk more on the field, take command of the defence.

“The training camp wound up with two games against New Zealand where all four keepers played a half, my team won 5-3 and I didn’t let in a goal during my half so that was another positive to take away from the experience.”