By Ben Hope
SUCCESS in the relatively unknown sport of floorball takes dedication, time and money, but these are sacrifices more than worth it for Pakenham’s Ben Monckton.
Introduced to the sport eight years ago, Monckton has already competed in national and international teams, including the 2009 national-title-winning Melbourne side.
This week he has joined fellow Pakenham resident Gavin Staindl in the 20-man Australian side for the Asia Pacific Floorball Championships in Singapore.
“This is the second time I have played in Singapore and I am really looking forward to it,” Monckton said before he left Australia.
“The sacrifices are well worth it, I love having the opportunity to travel and we always have some time at the end of the competition to see the sights.”
The Australian side will need to finish in the top three to automatically qualify for the world championships in Finland this December.
“We have a pretty good side with plenty of experience and we will have a good chance of winning the title,” Monckton said.
If the team makes it to the world championships they will be hoping to emulate the success of the winning Australian women’s team, which took gold in the B division competition at last December’s World Championships.
Berwick’s Ash Bourke joined the winning Australian women’s team in Sweden and said the competition was difficult with a higher standard of play than what she was used to.
“It was a great experience that definitely raised the profile of the sport in Australia,” she said.
“We were all surprised with our result. Our team was ranked fifth in our division going into the competition and one Swedish newspaper even predicted we would come last.”
The 21-year-old joined the sport at 16 after watching games at Pakenham stadium and has already played in three world championships. She said the European competition attracted much larger crowds than any of the Australian games.
“We were playing in an ice hockey arena with a special floor, so there was room for a lot of people,” she said.
“Some of the matches were even broadcast on TV.”
Australian Floorball Association president Barb Summers said the win at the world championships ensured the Australian women’s team was awarded an automatic qualifying spot for the 2011 World Cup in Switzerland.
“This was the best result an Australian team has ever had,” Ms Summers said.
“They went in ranked 15th in the world and came out 10th as a result of the players’ hard work and concentrated training regime.”
“We are now hoping the men’s team can do just as well.”
Describing the game as “ice hockey without the ice,” Ms Summers said floorball was slowly gaining popularity in Australia, despite being an unfunded sport with all costs met by the players.
“We are waiting for the Australian Sports Commission’s funding grants to be announced mid-2010 to see whether the sport will be offered a grant,” she said
“At the moment it is hard for the Australian teams to get together and practise. We have to run training camps, which means players will always be flying across the country and that can be fairly costly for them.”
Floorball looks set to increase its profile in Australia after recently gaining acceptance into the International Olympics Federation.
“At this stage we don’t have a date when floorball will be in the Olympics but we are hoping it will be in the next five to 10 years,” Ms Summers said.
By Ben Hope