Altona Hockey Club young gun Connar Otterbach has never had a shortage of idols to model his game on.
Since the age of seven, the 17-year-old has been guided by some passionate coaches at Altona, including current senior teammate Andrew Scanlon.
Given his desire to make the Australian team, Otterbach has kept a close eye on the Kookaburras, the Australian men’s hockey team, in particular the playing style of former captain and defender Mark Knowles.
“I play a similar position to him on the field and I’ve tried to look at what he does well to make myself a better player,” Otterbach said.
Now Otterbach is taking on role model status of his own, with the Altona resident enjoying the honour of captaining Victoria’s under-18 team after being voted into the role by his peers.
“When I got told I was captaining Victoria, I felt so honoured,” Otterbach said.
“I’ve been around that group for at least five years now and just being able to take ownership and lead the younger players in the team was such a good role for me.
“I was one of the older boys in the team … they were really comfortable with me stepping into the captaincy, knowing that I’ve played in the team for many years and have experience in the older age groups as well.”
Otterbach will feature in Victoria’s under-21 team for a second time when he plays at the national championships in Lismore next month.
It is a crucial tournament for Otterbach in his bid to guide the Big V to a title and position himself for a spot in the Australian under-21 squad.
Even as one of the younger members of the travelling team, Otterbach is confident of having an eye-catching tournament.
“Last year, I was pretty nervous playing with the older group because I wasn’t really sure what to expect and how much better they were going to be,” Otterbach said.
“As I went on with training, I was able to grow and develop my game and just felt comfortable.
“I feel confident in my ability to be able to play well over there and I’m hoping to step into more of a key role in the team this year.
“They will pick an Australian squad from that tournament and the team will travel to Malaysia to play in an international tournament.”
Otterbach is part of the Australian futures squad, which is made up of the nation’s top 30 players under the age of 18.
He is also part of the emerging Victorian Vikings squad, which is full of young guns hoping to make the Australian Hockey League team.
As part of that squad, the Maribyrnong College student will be on the radar of HC Melbourne, the locally-based franchise in the Hockey One national competition.
“I’m aiming to get picked in the squad for HC Melbourne and maybe be given the opportunity to play one or two games at the open level and get a gauge for the best level of hockey in Australia,” he said.
Otterbach, who describes his role as a free defender, felt like he was in a hockey wonderland when he was selected by Hockey Victoria to go on a tour of Europe earlier this year, playing games in Belgium and the Netherlands.
“It was the most amazing experience I’ve had with hockey so far,” he said.
Otterbach is the June nominee for the Don Deeble Rising Star award.
The award, hosted by the Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and Star Weekly, recognises young athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved outstanding results at state and or national levels.
Otterbach will receive $1000 and other prizes, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, to assist him in achieving his sports goals.