Despite being the world’s third most popular sport, with an estimated number of two billion fans worldwide, field hockey is only publicly televised every four years during the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.
While Australians can access more coverage through Pay TV subscriptions, these private broadcasters like Fox Sports only broadcast sporadic major tournaments. It's as though players only crawl out from the locker rooms every time there's a world championship to be won.
This is the case for the UK, Canada and the U.S, and even though field hockey being played in 112 countries world-wide, regular premiership games aren't televised or adequately publicised.
... For a patriotic country, who take pride in dominating the sports ladder, so much so that the national flag is often worn as superhero cape at events (and probably the occasional wedding), we don’t seem to give a southern cross that we dominate the hockey field.
Given that our Men’s team - the Kookaburras - is number 1 and the Hockeyroos are number 3 in the world, you would think that hockey's profile wouldn't be so lacklustre here in Oz. But for a patriotic country, who take pride in dominating the sports ladder, so much so that the national flag is often worn as superhero cape at events (and probably the occasional wedding), we don’t seem to give a southern cross that we dominate the hockey field.
Sports like rugby league take up television time, and receive wide media coverage. The sport not only has regular premiership games broadcast, but also a weekly panel show dedicated to all things league. Australia - particularly NSW - is so keen on league, we even have an app that decorates your Facebook photos in either blue or maroon.
Hockey’s premier leagues on the other hand, can only be streamed online, even though it has over 76, 000 more participants across the country than rugby - and needless to say, there is a significant gender balance amongst its 118, 000 players.
There is clearly a big hockey community in Australia, so why can't we buy an NSW Arrows team key ring or t-shirt at Rebel Sport?
Chief Executive of Hockey Australia, Cam Vale told Zela, “"We tick the so-called 'boxes' so well – gender equality, global game, safe, incredibly strong integrity in our sport, young to old play it, but it seems hockey hasn’t found its 'tipping point' to be more mainstream. The global community of hockey needs to keep working at it."
From an audience perspective, hockey is similar to football - the world’s most watched and participated game. Its easy to follow and universally translatable. The game has attackers and defenders; passing and tackling and each goal determines one point. As two teams go head-to-head in a fast-paced and heavily skilful game, there can only be one winner, making hockey the ideal game for traditional sports fans.
With a male-to-female ratio at almost 50/50, broadcasters and sports journalists would need to cover hockey twice as much, which is a big commitment.
While the sport seems marketable enough; it’s easy to understand and already has a large fan-base, there are a number of factors hindering its mainstream status. For one, the ball is small compared to a football or rugby ‘egg’ and isn’t easily traced on-screen; Canada and the U.S’ huge following of ice hockey (NHL) has somewhat claimed the title, making its identity an afterthought of an American league on skates; and with a male-to-female ratio at almost 50/50, broadcasters and sports journalists would need to cover hockey twice as much, which is a big commitment.
However, without over-coming these issues, players and other professionals like managers, coaches and administration get little reward for the tireless efforts put in.
“The players in Australia are role models of the highest standard, their integrity is unquestionable," Vale said. "While it [televised games] doesn’t impact their performance as the truly elite players they are, it has an impact on the messages we hear about what the community wants from sport and its athletes, yet it isn’t translating into greater financial rewards.
"As senior administrators like myself, it is mine and others' responsibility to keep finding a way that addresses this”.
Hockey is in an interesting position where the players and contributors have to appeal to the masses, despite actually feeling like superstars. Hockey has an incredible demand, which has somehow gone under the radar and absent from our lively sports discourse. Judging by the coverage of the game, anyone would think that hockey is as niche as race walking or solo synchronised swimming and therefore, only graces national media when the Olympic flame is lit.
Hockeyroo defender, Anna Flanagan is a guest editor for a special edition of Zela articles. Anna has written, commissioned and created content for readers around her love of sport and broader interests.