A quartet of Hockey Albury-Wodonga juniors have continued the Border association’s huge month with call-ups to Victoria’s under 15s.
Tess Palubiski (Rutherglen), Tas Kearney (Beechworth), Ryan Heagney (Corowa) and Aaron Sonter (Wodonga) will contest the under 15 national championships at Wollongong in April.
Heagney, Sonter and Kearney will play together in the under 15s boys for Victoria White, while Palubiski represents Victoria Blue in the under 15s girls.
The players undertook a rigorous process to be in contention for a state appearance, culminating in two selection trials to reach the final squad.
Palubiski, 14, was picked for the under 13s blue side in 2016, but missed out as a bottom-age player in the 15s last season, before regaining her place.
“I’ve had to work really hard to get back into this team because there was a lot of girls trying out for positions,” Palubiski said.
“It will be amazing to go to Wollongong for another national tournament.
“The skill level and the amount you learn from it is just amazing.
“It will definitely be different (to under 13s), but I’ve got my old coach (David Wansbrough) who I was in 13 blues with.
“He was such an amazing player himself and represented Australia at the Olympics.
“I’m just getting back into it all and taking new things away from him.”
The tournament will be a first for Sonter, who stormed into contention after being picked in Kookaburras’ legend Chris Ciriello’s academy team for the FHE Cup in Perth last November.
Sonter lapped up the experience coming up against some of Australia’s best juniors and a number of international teams duriing the competition.
“It was really good, it was probably one of the highlights of my life so far,” Sonter said.
Sonter will be focusing on his fitness and sharpening his skills ahead of the trip.
However, Kearney and Heagney are in a familiar environment, having been teammates at the under 13s nationals in 2016.
“A lot of hard work has paid off,” Heagney said.
“There’s been lots of training sessions and fitness work.
“It’s my biggest achievement so far and I’m very proud of it.”
Kearney admitted he couldn’t have got to where he has without the support of his home club.
“Beechworth is where I’ve come from and the hockey club has done some amazing things for me in my six years there,” he said.
“It was pretty disappointing to miss out last year, but I knew I had to improve on a few things, like my fitness, especially, and other aspects of the game as well.
“It’s been really good getting back into the side and I’m really keen to go play in Wollongong.
“I’ve played heaps against Aaron and Ryan, so it will be good now to play with them in the same side.”
Rupert Gaukroger made the ACT under 15 boys side, while Logan Wilford is train on for the under 18s.
The national event runs from April 18 to 27.