Super striker sets his sights on a Commonwealth treble
Claire Middleton finds a double Commonwealth Games gold medallist keen to follow his father to the Olympics
WHEN your grandfather has played hockey for Australia and your father has played hockey for Australia you have little choice. You have to play … cricket!
But not for long, as Trent Mitton eventually realised and, 100-odd Kookaburra caps later he is still filled to the brim with ambition and hoping finally to make the squad for a major competition.
His grandfather Don played for the national side in 1958 while his father Grant was a member of the team which went to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and then won gold at the London World Cup two years later. That’s quite a family history. And when you look at the events in which he has played, you’d surely want the youngest Mitton in your team.
He’s been to two Commonwealth Games, two Champions’ Trophies one World League final and one Oceania Cup – and won gold in all of them. However, for obvious reasons, he’s far from satisfied.
“I must be the most capped Australian who has never been to a World Cup or an Olympics,” he rues.
He didn’t miss much by missing out on Rio – the pre-tournament favourites were sixth, playing with none of their usual pressing pizzazz – but that’s not the way an athlete sees it, even one who might feel bitter at his non-selection.
“It was tough to watch. I thought I should have been there but they were my best friends playing out there so it was a really weird experience and I came out of it feeling very upset at how it went,” he says.
The post-Olympic watershed has given Mitton another crack at the big time and he will surely be in the mix for a third Commonwealth gold medal after surviving the installation of a new coach and starting the new regime with goals aplenty in the recent Test series against Pakistan in Darwin.
The international retirements of Jamie Dwyer, Russell Ford, Matt Gohdes and Glenn Turner, plus the initial non-selection of injury-hit Kieran Govers has left the Aussies short of experienced firepower.
Mitton, as a consequence, has a real chance to cement his claim for selection on the big occasions and is determined to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to do so. Let’s hope his natural talent for self-deprecation doesn’t hold him back.
"I'm middle-aged in terms of my hockey career so that helped, along with the lack of alternative forwards,” he says. He believes he has a good relationship with new boss Colin Batch, who returned to Australia following a successful spell as coach of New Zealand. Batch, of course, was the assistant to Barry Dancer when the Kookaburras won their only Olympic title, in 2004. "Colin was my coach when I was Under 15 at Wesley South Perth so I have seen him around the place a lot,” he says. The Australian national teams are based in Perth, Western Australia, Mitton’s home city.
“I was a little nervous the day the new programme was announced because players were being let go and only a small squad was being selected. There were a few who I think were hard done by but I’m going to strive to be in the best 16 and if I can be the one to replace Jamie Dwyer or Glenn Turner, I’d love to be that guy.
“Following Rio, we have to take the next step forward and acknowledge that improvements have to be made. We’ve lost a huge proportion of the core group so it is up to people like me to start to show some leadership and I’m looking forward to it.”
The first sporting love of Mitton, 26, was cricket and he was pretty good at it. It’s not surprising then that he
Like father like son: Dad Grant Mitton, a former Australia international jokes with son Trent before his debut for the Kookaburras in 2010. Trent’s grandfather Don also represented the national team.
Third generation: Trent Mitton, left, has followed his grandfather and father into the Kookaburras’ green and gold. He’s hoping to be as successful as former strikers Jamie Dwyer and Glenn Turner, right