Josh is off to Tokyo

June 16, 2021 at 10:45 AM

Olympic Games are very special

In a Yarra Valley Grammar Grade 4 classroom, a hockey coach from Senior school left some pamphlets about a ‘Come & Try Hockey’ summer program at Doncaster Hockey Club.  Coming from a family who had never been involved in hockey, Josh took the pamphlet home and asked his Mum, Rochelle, if she would take him the following Friday afternoon.  The rest, as they say is history …

Josh loved the game from the first time he ran around the field.  Doncaster Hockey Club made it fun, taught him new skills; up until then he was into AFL, Basketball & Little Athletics.  The Doncaster organisers asked him to stay and play against the older kids.  Did the coaches see something on that very first session?

Today, Doncaster’s Josh Simmonds with 22 Kookaburra caps, got to experience a career highlight, being selected in the Kookaburra’s Tokyo Olympics team.  Josh has been home grown Donny all of the way.  From his first coaches in Under 11’s, Chris Gange and Craig McBride used to give instructions on the field.  His Premier League coaches Cam Muir and Craig McBride guided his transition from Junior to Senior hockey and before leaving for the Kookaburras, Wayne McIndoe developed him into a leader.  Many times, Simmonds has been heard to tell people “I’m a one club player, Doncaster Hockey Club will always be my home.”

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Early days at Doncaster - Josh Simmonds in the Under 13's with Tim Snow as Coach

Of course, along the journey there have been disappointments and highlights.  In 2011 he trialled but missed out on selection in the U15 Victorian team.  But to be holding the trophy up with his Victorian Vikings teammates winning AHL in 2017 and then with his Kookaburras teammates as winners of the 2019 Pro League, Simmonds changed things.  During all the journey Simmonds never took his eyes off the job ahead and has built his hockey from the ground up.

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Josh and fellow Kookaburras hold the 2019 Pro League Cup

“I was disappointed not being selected in the Under 15’s team but it did make me decide to give complete commitment to hockey to see how far I could go” Simmonds said.

One of the first things Simmonds did was found a coach and mentor.  Vicki Poyser had gone to university with Rochelle and had coached at a national and international level in Australia and overseas, mainly on the girls’ side and was now living back in Bendigo with her family.  She offered to give Simmonds some one-on-one coaching over the summer of 2011/12 and there developed a decade-long winning partnership.  Simmonds then followed the Victorian pathway into State teams (U21 and U18 in the same year) and was named in the Futures Squad in 2013.  He was drafted to the VIS soon after where he developed under the coaching of Jay Stacey, until his call up to the Kookaburras Daily Training Environment in Perth in June 2018.

Just three months after arriving, Simmonds debuted for the Kookaburras in the Darwin International Hockey Series.  In 2019 Simmonds was a regular Kookaburra as the Australians went on to win the inaugural Pro League international competition in the Netherlands securing their number one world ranking.

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Josh Simmonds at full steam for the Kookaburras 2019

Simmonds was selected in the Kookaburras’ Olympic Squad in December 2019, an important step towards playing in the Tokyo Olympics.  Then COVID-19 turned the entire world upside down.  Obviously, the Olympics were postponed, indefinitely.  Simmonds came home to Victoria for 6 months and negotiated training with the VIS through lockdown.  Then back to Perth and finally training again with the Kookaburras.  But unfortunately no international games as our international borders were closed.  The Kookaburras were 446 days between playing any international matches; from 7th March 2020 against Argentina (where incidentally Simmonds scored his first international goal), then not until 27th May 2021 against New Zealand.

Simmonds welcomed the mental break during the COVID 2020 lockdown but the training was extremely difficult.  “I had no tackling or marking practice during this period, which was tough as a defender.  I relied on the great support of the VIS programme while I was in Melbourne, to keep me in good shape going back to Perth” Simmonds said.

With such a huge disruption to international sport across the board, the recent Trans-Tasman Series (Kookaburras v Blacksticks in New Zealand) was the only opportunity for the Kookaburras to strut their stuff.  Australian won the series 4 to nil.  Simmonds played in three of the four tests and clearly, the Australian selectors were incredibly pleased with what they saw as Simmonds was selected in the 16 for the Olympic team.

Simmonds was thrilled with his selection.  “Playing in the Olympics is the dream of every player in the Kookaburras squad and I am very pleased to have been selected from an outstanding group” Simmonds said.

And the first thing Simmonds did, after telling Chloe and his family, was to contact his coaches, to thank them for the huge support, direction, and encouragement he received.  “There’s no way I would have been selected without the coaching and backing those people have given me over the years.  Obviously, Mum and Dad have given me so much, but my coaches have been a key part of all my hockey” Simmonds added.

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Proud Mum, Rochelle with Josh international match 2019

Without playing favourites, Simmonds was quick to point out how important fellow Doncaster player Russell Ford has been in recent years.  “Rusty has been a huge help to me, he has a lot of experience at the international level, so I always look to him as a mentor.  He is always sending me messages since I’ve been here [Perth] and is always a good sounding board and to ask questions.  Now that Tokyo is on the agenda, I’ll have to ask Rusty my Olympic questions” Simmonds concluded.

Doncaster Hockey Club President, Sue Sturrock said the Club were wildly excited with Simmonds’ selection.  “We are thrilled to bits that Josh will play in Tokyo!  And not only is playing Olympics such a huge accolade but Josh is such an honest, friendly and humble kid; everybody at the Club thinks his selection is most worthy.  We’ll be right behind him in Tokyo” Sturrock said.

With the Tokyo Olympic Games now less than 40 days away (Opening 23 July 2021) the Kookaburras have precious little time to do their final preparation.  The Kookaburras and the Hockeyroos will play two test matches against New Zealand in Perth on 26 & 27 June.  Then it’s off to Tokyo.

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