By Tyler Lewis
Nathan Ephraums is looking forward to the atmosphere and the chance to win gold when he competes in his debut Commonwealth Games later this month.
The 23-year-old out of Keysborough was running up and down the hockey field from the moment he could walk, and it’s those early moments he feels has steered him to donning the green and gold.
“For me it pretty easy, dad was always coaching when I was growing up so I was always around it,” he said of his introduction to hockey.
“I took a knack for it and continued from there, I was about three or four when I was running around with a hockey stick so I have always been around hockey and I think that has held me in good stead.
“Josh (his brother) was able to play some pretty high level hockey… there was definitely a fair bit of competition growing up in the backyard.
“Because I was the younger one, dad always played on my team, it was always two on one, I think that helped me become a bit more of a striker and him a defender – it always got a bit fiery.”
Ephraums made the shift from his Melbourne club to Perth on the cusp of a turbulent time.
And while missing the eventual Olympic Games, Ephraums admits the extra 12 months helped him solidify a platform to ‘launch’ from.
“I moved over at the start of 2020, or the end of the 2019, so that entire period was a bit frantic with the games being cancelled and Covid,” he said.
“But since moving back over I have been able to have a really settled period of about 18 months, I narrowly missed out on the Olympics, but I think that extra 12 months has given me a good platform to launch into selection I guess.
“In terms of really developing, getting to the next level and then the Kookaburra’s – definitely at club level, it has helped me springboard.
“That’s gone a long way to helping my performance.”
The Kookaburra’s culture inspired many at a difficult time last year, when the Men’s Hockey side made it all the way to the gold medal match with Belgium.
Ephraums revealed what drives that famous Kookaburra culture.
“I think our Kookaburra’s culture is driven by mateship,” he said.
“Not only having a good group of friends that you can have a good hit around with on the hockey field, but go out for coffee, hang out as a group and just really being a tight knit group of friends.
“We always talk about our daily training environment being our strongest drivers, but we love going on tour because we get to spend that extra bit of time together, that we don’t always get at home.
“We all get along really well and it helps us on the hockey field.”
The Kookaburra’s suffered a heart-breaking defeat at the hands of Belgium in the Tokyo 2021 gold medal match, with the European powerhouse holding their nerve in a shoot-out.
But with neither Belgium nor Germany competing in the Commonwealth Games, Ephraums believes the expectation is nothing short of gold.
“There is a bit of a different group to what we usually play against,” he said.
“We miss out on playing those European teams in the Commonwealth Games and it’s been spoken about, we’ve had a pretty good run at the Com Games, I think we’ve won the last six.
“We are definitely going over there to win and we have the expectation of winning, but as well we have eight debutants, so at the end of the day it’s all just new guys that get their crack at winning a gold medal.”
The reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallists will begin their title defence in Birmingham with a match-up against Scotland, before facing the nation in which they beat for gold back in 2018, New Zealand.