Following the end of the inaugural season last Saturday, the Sultana Bran Hockey One League is now focused on replicating the growth and success seen by the Big Bash League in coming years.
The 2019 season ended with the NSW Pride (Men) and Brisbane Blaze (Women) leaving victorious in the Grand Final doubleheader at the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Melbourne, but organisers aren’t wasting any time in preparing for future growth.
Hockey One League general manager, Tony Dodemaide, who worked previously as the CEO of Cricket Victoria and played a large part in the set-up and oversight of the now household name Big Bash League, said the organisers of the Hockey One League have a winning recipe in the new format.
“I was involved in the set-up of the Big Bash League, and I can see the initial similarities in terms of the quality of the product and everyone’s confident that we have a winning recipe and we can take this sport very far going forward,” Mr Dodemaide said.
“The league is another iteration of the Australian national hockey league, which was a tournament-style competition that took place over a couple of weeks with all Australian states.
“We’ve looked to make it more of a fan-facing and commercially attractive product, by running it over a couple of months with a home and away season being played all around Australia.
“It was very much a start-up operation, to go from a pretty quiet competition to a more engaging competition.
“That was the objective this year, to put it up on that platform and develop some engagement, sell some tickets and memberships.
“This concept of engagement was born out of the idea and need to have a more attractive and visible product; the sport looked at the success in particular of the Big Bash and how to attract more families,” he said.
The league’s initial success was largely backed by its principal sponsors, with Kellogg’s (under Sultana Bran), stepping up as the naming rights sponsor for the league, and a host of others who trusted in the initial concept.
“We had around 15,000 people purchase tickets or memberships for individual teams across the league, with average attendance across our 21 matches and finals across the league up around 800 people per game,” Mr Dodemaide said.
“Our figures at this stage obviously don’t compare to some of the other Australian sports, but for us, it was massive to get it up and going and we were able to put a stake in the ground in terms of being a successful and attractive sports product.
“We knew we had a sport that’s good to watch, but we needed to package it differently and bring it more to the forefront, so we focused on rebranding the state teams completely and look at it as probably the most gender-equal sport in Australia in terms of participation and attention of resources to both men and women,” he said.
According to a 2015 Roy Morgan study, field hockey is by far the most gender-balanced team sport in terms of participation at least, with a 47-53% female-male split, the next closest team sport at the time being netball, with an 85-15% female-male split.
Now with the inaugural season in the books, the Sultana Bran Hockey One League organisers are now tasked with building a strong, successful and engaging product that can stand on its own with the likes of other Australian sports.