Sunday, October 18, 2009




THE surnames Dancer and Charlesworth have been synonymous with Australian hockey for decades. Barry Dancer is the recently retired gold medal-winning coach of the men's team, while Ric Charlesworth has helped the national women's team to two Olympic gold medals.

But hockey followers could be forgiven for having to take a second glance at the Kookaburras' team list with a new generation of the famous families now forging their own careers in the sport.

For the first time, the champions' sons - full-back Brent Dancer and midfielder Jonathon Charlesworth - have joined the squad, which flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday to compete in a five-Test tour.

Dancer is the son of Barry, who coached the Kookaburras for eight years and guided them to gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He retired as national coach last year after the Beijing Games.

And it was Ric Charlesworth - a former Kookaburras captain who coached the Australian women's team to gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics - who took over from Dancer and is now leading the side.

His son's debut comes after five seasons in the national league with Western Australia and marks the first time in the Kookaburras' history that a player has been coached by his father.

Brent Dancer has been part of the national team's development group since 2006 and was added to the national training squad earlier this year.

Dancer, 25, is looking forward to his first international appearance, which will have a major bearing on selection for the Champions Trophy squad to play in Melbourne from November 28 to December 6.

''I've certainly grown up around hockey and have been around it since I was a young kid so, yeah, you could say it's in the blood,'' he said.

But earning your stripes in the sport when your father was the head coach did have its advantages, Dancer said.

''He's my own personal coach. It's pretty handy to have him sitting in a corner giving me advice on my game.

''When he was the actual coach and I was trying to break into the team it was probably a bit more difficult than for the standard players, but I certainly don't think it got in the way of me making the team at any stage. I think if I was good enough at the time dad would have been fair on me and would have picked me.''

He says that, like Charlesworth, he often fields questions about his celebrated father.

''While we've both earned our spot, I think being around hockey for so long and having our dads in the positions they are, you just learn to live with it.''

As Charlesworth junior puts it, their unique situation means the pair share a special bond.

''I've already asked [my dad] a couple of times what he did in certain situations with regard to training and how to act around the guys and so on, and he's been really good,'' Charlesworth says.

''The other guys are all pretty understanding and don't treat me any differently.''

Both players took up hockey at the age of six and also turned to soccer for a while due to its similarities.

Charlesworth soon decided hockey was where his heart was, while Dancer returned to the sport as a teenager. He had to work his way back after about 18 months on the sidelines from 2005 when he required a full knee reconstruction after injuring it in a social Australian rules game with his workmates.

Charlesworth says being the first squad member to play under his father is an honour. ''It's actually good because I get to see a bit more of dad,'' he said.

The 24-year-old, who as a trainee doctor is also following his father's career footsteps, is among three players to make their debut in Malaysia, along with Queenslanders Matt Gohdes and Matthew Swann. Gohdes is a cousin of two-time world player of the year and current Kookaburra Jamie Dwyer.

The Age.Com