YOUNG Ballarat goal keeper, Zaige Porra, has just returned from the Under 21 2018 Fiji Hockey International in December where he represented Australia.
Securing a place in the team had been a huge goal for Porra, now 18-years-old.
During a long selection process, he was seen representing Victoria in Berri in August and made the cut for the under 21 national side.
“I felt a lot of pride within myself that I was able to get into the team, really. It was quite an impressive line up we had,” he said.
“Being keepers, it’s a little bit harder for us. Field play, if you’re good enough overall, you can change positions. Goal keeper- there’s only two spots, that’s it.”
Fiji’s conditions were testing. In up to 40-degree heat, Porra was losing 3kg in each of the six games played, but he enjoyed the competition.
“Fiji was the toughest team to play. They had a bit of home field advantage and weather advantage, but the strength and determination they have is absolutely outstanding.”
Porra’s introduction to hockey came at age 11, after he broke his ankle playing soccer.
“One of my mates said to come down to the local Ballarat ground and try my hand at this. Kind of got the bug from there,” he said.
“I played for my school, St Pats, in year seven or eight and we didn’t have a keeper. I was the youngest there, they made me do it. I loved getting the ball hit at me for some reason.”
Porra started with Altona’s Premier League Reserve team four seasons ago at only 14 years old.
“I had to do the Premier League Reserves keeper job. The average age there is at least 20. It got me where I am now,” he said.
“It’s hard being in a country town and club. It’s hard to be seen and get the training and the skills you want. I’ve been lucky with the opportunities I’ve had to go and play in Melbourne. A lot of kids don’t get that.”
Porra is grateful for the support he’s received along the way from Jeff Sly, manager of the Australian Country Under 21 Men and Mike Nelson, Head of Australian Country. But having just finished Year 12 at St Patrick’s College, Porra is looking forward to 2019 where he hopes to build new networks during an overseas gap year.
With a connection he’s made over his years at Altona, he’s considering a “club swap.
“Our keeper is from England and he’s come over to play for four years. While he’s at our club, maybe I can go to his club.”