FLETCHER Norris loves a hockey challenge and that's exactly what he's going to get in Perth next week when he competes at his second national championships of 2022.
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The St Pat's talent was a standout when the NSW under 18s claimed national silver at Cairns in April, so he's now been given a job playing for the NSW Blue side at Hockey Australia Under 21 Championships.
Norris knows the hockey will be more intense on all levels and he's already experienced the different approach from the coaching staff.
"It's pretty much they keep telling us they're not going to treat us like boys anymore, that we're men," he said.
"It's pretty weird coming into it when everyone is older than you."
Being an under 18s player stepping up to join a new playing group against unknown rivals could easily be perceived as a pressure situation.
But Norris has enough experience to be able to view the opportunity from a different perspective.
"At Cairns because we were the first New South Wales team there was a bit of pressure on us, but because we're the second team in 21s we can sort of just go out there and do our thing," he said.
"Pretty much all the pressure is off because no-one really knows each other in this age, they've not had a nationals in 21s for ages due to COVID. So it's just go there and play the best you can, there are no stand-out players that anyone knows of."
While Norris may not be feeling pressure, when it comes to expectations it is a different matter.
Both his NSW Blue and the NSW State side have been training hard in the build up and are aiming to at least reach the semi-finals.
"The coaching staff have said that top four is a minimum, we don't go away to obviously to go lower than the top four. For me it will be mainly to see how I go against the older guys and where I'm at," Norris said.
"I'm just excited because it's a whole new group of people, I'm just keen to go over and play.
"We've done a couple of training sessions by ourselves on a Friday night down in Cronulla, then on a Sunday morning we'll play a game against the State team, so we've got a couple of games under our belt now.
"We've done two weekends of that so far and are doing it this weekend as well, so yeah, it's pretty full on at the moment."
Preparing for the under 21 championships has meant Norris has not had the chance to play many Central West Premier League Hockey matches with St Pat's lately.
He'll be absent for this Saturday's clash with Lithgow Storm and it means he's also had little game time with younger brother Seth, who stepped up to Premier League earlier this year.
The Saints have nicknamed Seth 'the prince', joking that Fletcher is 'the king'.
"It's been pretty hard trying to play for Pat's at the moment, I still go to training and they're like 'The prince is doing better than you' but I'm just like okay," Norris laughed.
"I came back to play one of the games against Lithgow and that was his [Seth's] second or third game, but missing the game where he and Will Daymond debuted, that was hard to go down to Sydney to play."
While the Saints will play back-to-back games against Storm in the next fortnight, Norris will be in action for NSW Blue.
For the July 20-27 national tournament the states and territories have been split into three pool, with Norris' NSW Blue placed alongside Victoria and ACT.
Sides play against each other once at the pool stage which then determines rankings for the quarter-finals, which commence next Sunday.
Semi-finals and repechage games follow before the medal matches on Wednesday, July 27.
"It is pretty important to win those pool games and I think goal difference is going to make a big difference at this as well," Norris said.
"We'd like to get over the [NSW] State team if we play them, but they're a really good team this year. There's not many people you can't say are really good players in there."
Norris flies out for Perth on Monday, will train on Tuesday then makes his under 21s debut for NSW on Wednesday.
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