TASmanian Sport & Coaching Collective
TASmanian Sport & Coaching Collective

Stephen McMullen

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Every four (sometimes five) years hockey comes squarely into focus with the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos taking on the world at the Olympic Games. High Performance careers are usually well established by this time, even for younger Olympians like DiamondBacks Hockey Club star Josh Beltz who will head into the games with less than 50 international caps. One high performance coaching career starting out is that of Tassie Tigers mens head coach Stephen McMullen who takes the reigns of the State’s HockeyOne club.
McMullen told TASSACC he is excited to take the top job despite never really aspiring to it during his playing days with North West Grads in Hobart. “It is exciting,” McMullen said. “I didn’t think I’d ever put my hand up to do it but the opportunity came around. “We have a good group of players and coaches with me so it’s exciting times.”
His coaching pathway was one that was pretty standard, working through club and junior rep hockey. “I probably had a funny one (pathway),” he recalled. “I finished playing and he never considered coaching but had done some underage stuff but never really considered it and three months later I was bench coach for the senior team. “That was 15 years ago. “I took it for a year, took it for another year and had a year off and then a couple of three year stints and have coached senior hockey in Hobart for 10 or 12 years. “Then started getting involved with the state program, doing state underage teams and had some good times and good success but it was never a plan but augmented over time.
McMullen is taking the reigns of a new club with a new focus and the responsibility is not lost on him. ”It’s the opportunity to put your own mark and culture on a group and something you may be able to look back on proudly,” he said. “It’s the establishment of the Tigers as a club that I’m involved in and I’ve got a senior role in that.
“It’s interesting because working in professional sport the way brand awareness is an important thing but hockey as an amateur sport is about trying to get a team on the park. “With HockeyOne they have started to develop the professionalism of it and the big difference is that it’s now free for the players but that comes with expectations on the players behavior and that’s an exciting thing for the sport that the brand is starting to move. “I was also on the board of HockeyOne so I’ve seen both sides of it. “Fox Sports are interested in it, New Zealand are interested in putting teams in it so it’s a really pivotal point for the sport.”
Unlike the challenges that have recently faced Rugby in Australia, McMullen believes hockey has one big advantage. “Hockey will always have the grassroots touch,” he said. “That will always keep it grounded. “I know that having Kelloggs with Sultana Bran is a totally new thing for hockey and set if off in a new direction, but it will be good provided it stays an amateur sport at club land.”
The Olympics are the biggest sporting show in the world, at least in this writer’s mind, and Tasmania is represented by three Tigers in Tokyo, locals Eddie Ockenden (North West Grads, Hobart), Josh Beltz and Darwin product turned Tiger Jeremy Hayward.
McMullen spoke about these three as keys to the Tigers but was keen to talk up the rest of his squad.
“We’ve got three blokes at the Olympics with Ed, Jeremy and Beltzy and we’ve got Jack Welch and Hayden (Beltz) who are just outside that group” McMullen said. “Sam McCulloch, Gobind Gill who is in junior national squads, Henry Chambers is a great up and coming goalkeeper and we’ve been able to get Tim Deavin and Jeremy Edwards so we’ve got a very experienced group of campaigners. “If you weigh us up pound for pound we are shaping up well against some of the other states. “I think It’s incredibly exciting, for a club as well. “It’s a fantastic link to have someone as so linked in as Ed is brilliant “I’ve coached Ed though some club hockey and been lucky enough to play with him. “The end of my career was the start of his. “He understands the game so well there isn’t a lot of coaching to do, just make sure he’s got what he wants and off he goes.”
The Tassie Tigers HockeyOne season starts at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre at New Town on 2 October against the Adelaide Blaze.

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