Alumnus Ben Craig follows hockey dream and joins the Kookaburras

Posted on December 20, 2016

Describing his initial reaction when he learned he had been selected, Ben shared:  “The day before the team was announced I remember feeling jittery and it reminded me of what it used to feel like on the night before Christmas.  When the team was published it was quite surreal and the messages and calls I got from well-wishers were amazing.”

Ben’s advice to other students about his hockey journey is:  “I made the team quite simply through working harder.  Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed and it is far better to be known as a hard worker than talented.  I was never even close to being the most talented or gifted player, but I worked extremely hard on everything I could.  For example, through hours of pushing myself to run as far as I could between cones on a hockey field, I made myself fitter than almost every other player in Australia according to fitness scores.  For the last two years I trained five times a week, meaning I would train at night, go to bed, wake up at 5am and do it again – and then get through work and university.  Everybody can control how hard they work at something.  If you push yourself to do everything you can, then good things will happen.  This was also my approach to the HSC.”

Ben attended Arden Secondary School.  When asked what he learned while at Arden, Ben shared:  “I was encouraged to pursue both sport and music in school – which lead me to find great work in one field and travel the world in the other.  I also learnt that being a good person is essential to satisfying success. Without learning how to be committed to what you do and to absolutely give it everything you have, then I’m sure I wouldn’t be in this position today.  I remember specifically understanding this during my HSC and fortunately have applied it to areas of my life post-school.  During my Year 12 experience I learnt how to be self-disciplined for a long period of time, exactly what I needed to get up at 5am for morning trainings to be in the position I am today.  This, however, can’t be to the exclusion of everything else in your life and it is really important to remember who you are, who the people are that mean a lot to you and that it is important to treat everyone well.”

Reflecting on how Arden supported him, Ben commented: Arden was absolutely fantastic in encouraging my hockey and was always wholly supportive of me as a player and person and my achievements were always celebrated publically and also privately.  Teachers quietly congratulating me on hockey achievements typified Arden’s close teacher-student bond, and exemplified how much individual holistic care was put into each student.”

When asked what he likes about hockey, Ben said:  “I like hockey because it is very, very fast and skillful.  Hockey encourages you to be good at balancing and managing time!  Life is always going on outside of the hockey field and work and university commitments are always there.”

Aside from hockey, Ben is currently undertaking his double degree – Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of International and Global Studies – at the University of Sydney.  He also teaches music (saxophone, clarinet and piano predominantly) and in his spare time enjoys camping and boating and generally just being outdoors with friends.

Summing up his Kookaburra’s experience so far, an enthusiastic Ben reflected:  “The Kookaburras experience is fantastic.  They are the number 1 team in the world and perhaps Australia’s most consistently performing sporting team. The culture and values they have are so motivating, indeed elusive in the modern world of elite sport.  To be called a Kookaburra is an honour that everyone in hockey understands.  It almost carries a mythical connotation of success, achievement and hard work.”

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An interview with Ben Craig

 What are your key sporting achievements?

  • While at Arden Anglican School, in 2011 I won the Pierre de Coubertin Award, was Sport Prefect and also received the Penny Gillies Singular Sports Person Award while in Year 12. I also represented NSW at the 2011 Australian Hockey Championships and won
  • In 2012 I played for the South Australian Under 21 team as a way of gaining experience 
  • I played for the NSW Under 21 Team in 2013 and 2014, winning gold in 2014.
  • I made my debut for the NSW Australian Hockey League team in 2015 and again played in 2016, winning bronze in October 2016
  • In 2014 I was selected in the Under 21 Australian team to play at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia and Singapore and was named Captain
  • In 2014 I played for Union Deportiva Taburiente (U.D.T.), a hockey club in Spain in the Spanish Premier League
  • I have been Captain of the Ryde Premier League team since 2013, with a particular highlight being winning our club’s first championship in 54 years in 2015
  • I have held a scholarship with the NSW Institute of Sport since 2015
  • I was selected for the Kookaburras in October, 2016 to play in the inaugural Trans-Tasman series against New Zealand in Auckland, followed by the International Festival of Hockey test series against India in Bendigo, with both events being held in November, 2016. This selection was made following my performances at the Australian Hockey League (AHL) in Perth.

How did you feel when you heard you had made it onto the Kookaburra’s?

It is very difficult to describe.  The day before the team was announced I remember feeling jittery.  I remember getting up at 10:30pm and going to get a thickshake because I was too nervous and excited, reminding me of what it used to feel like on the night before Christmas. 

When the team was published it was quite surreal and the messages and calls I got from well-wishers were amazing.  For some people me getting chosen to play at this level was a ringing endorsement for the Ryde Hockey Club, especially because this result was entirely unforeseeable just a few years ago – it felt like a truly collective achievement, much bigger than just my own.

When did you interest in hockey begin? 

I began playing hockey after returning from living in Canada when I was five years old.  I had no idea about the sport and the only reason my brother and I chose to play was because Mum wouldn’t let us play ice hockey.

Did anyone influence you in terms of either taking up the sport or supporting your development in it?

For my development as a player I can’t speak highly enough of the Ryde Hockey Club as my development occurred much later and largely through my club.  My hockey journey is quite unique in that many athletes are fast tracked through institutes and national programs on their way to becoming a Kookaburra.  I had none of that.  I was able to keep up with the nationally identified athletes through the training and support I received from the people at Ryde.  It is amazing how much people would invest of themselves to help me get better.

What do you like about hockey?

I like hockey because it is very, very fast and skillful.  Hockey encourages you to be good at balancing and managing time!  Life is always going on outside of the hockey field and work and university commitments are always there.  It would be nice to dedicate myself to just pursuing hockey but it’s just not an option while living in Sydney.

Hockey really is underappreciated as a sport as I think its entertainment value is far higher than many people realise.  In a way I also like how it is non-professional in that people do it because they want to do it, not because of a pay packet.  Everyone playing for Australia has sacrificed an enormous amount to be where they are, and I think this adds to the pride and honour of being a member of such an elite and hardworking group.

What are your other interests?

I have been undertaking a double degree – Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of International and Global Studies at the University of Sydney.  Having completed the Bachelor of International and Global Studies, majoring in Government and International Relations in 2016, I am currently studying Law and will complete that in late 2017.  I continue to enjoy my love of music by teaching music (saxophone, clarinet and piano predominantly) at Bennelong Music.  I also really enjoy camping and boating and generally just being outdoors with friends.

My career plans are unknown as I’m not sure what will happen when I graduate, but I want to get everything I can out of hockey while I can.  I will probably play in Europe again.  A move to the AIS in Perth in 2017 might be on the cards, but that will become clearer after this series.