Australia v Korea Series Perth

Hockeyroo’s vs Korea Home Series Summary

4-2, 1-2, 6-0 & 1-3 were the score lines of the Hockeyroo’s v Korea matches played over the past week, with the Perth home series commencing on the 24th of April.

I don’t have to put the results into graph formation for all to clearly understand that our performance resembled the emotional state of a 50-year-old women or the listening capacity of a 50-year-old man….. inconsistent and fluctuating.

We got off to a positive start with the 4-2 win, with debutants Jane Claxton and Brooke Peris experiencing top-level hockey and contributing well to the team in their first game. The teams enthusiasm and willingness to press and counter in front of the boisterous home crowd served us well in running over the top of the ever-physical Korean team. As much as I hate it and try to not to take part in it, losing occasionally has its benefits as we inevitably go out of our way to learn more, fuelled by the frustration and embarrassment of underperforming.

Basking in the win and all its glory, we as a team did not identify or place enough importance on stringently analysing our winning performance to fix up the mistakes that the Korean team had not punished us for. Our lack of process as athletes meant we suffered the consequences the following game with Korea exposing our poor structure on the outlet and winning the game with 4 minutes to go through a stroke to Kim Young Ran. Korean forward Park mi Hyun also taught our defence a lesson in marking, running riot in the forward line with some impressive leading and clinical finishing in the attacking circle.

Saying that I don’t like losing is an understatement; I hate losing. You just have to ask my poor brother, who suffered several hits to the head with chess pieces, as I swiped the board clean opting to end the game before he could mutter, “checkmate”. I have no hesitations in saying that many of the girls in the team are as competitive and were equally determined to have an improved performance in the 3rd match.

The results were pleasing with a well-executed 6 – 0 win. It was a hard slog only being 1 up before halftime. It was great to see our group stick to the set game plan and keep our structure allowing the floodgates to eventually open. The game was filled with strong attacking movements, determination in the contest and some amusing goal celebration compliments of Madonna Blyth.

Excuse the change of subject but before I move onto the final game I am going to mention Geelong Football Club, a somewhat difficult decision given they are Victorian. According to a recent news article, from round 3 in 2007 to round 4 in 2013 the Geelong football club has won 123 matches, losing jut 27 times resulting in 3 premierships, making them the most consistent team in AFL history. This even outdoes Collingwood’s best performing team in the 1930’s (thank goodness).

Here in lies our problem! How do we become as consistent as Geelong and inevitably give ourselves the best chance of having regular and enduring success? Call me crazy, but winning 6 – 0 and then coming out in the final game and losing 3-1 does not scream consistency. If there was a simple answer to this problem than winning would be easy and Fremantle Dockers would have won a premiership by now. This is the situation as a team we are now faced with, and have now started the difficult process of addressing our mental attitude aiming to ascertain the cause of our varying results.

It was disappointing to draw the series given some strong performances but it has given us a clear indication that our consistency needs to improve before heading to the World Series in June, where strong repeated performances are essential.

Special mention goes to my team mates Georgia Nanscawen and Emily Smith who reached their 100th and 50th game milestone, while further congratulations extends to Edwina Bone, Mariah Williams, Brooke Peris and Jane Claxton who made their debut this series.

 

Australian Hockey League Finals and Becoming a Better Player

AHL – THE FINAL WRAP UP

Although the phrase “It’s a whole new ball game” is often called from the baseball commentary box, this very line was highly applicable to the AHL finals.

Although QLD and WA were favorites to make it into the Grand Final match based on final ladder standings, finals are a different game and upsets are aplenty. Semi finals saw first placed Queensland take on New South Wales (4th), while Western Australia (2nd) were set to battle it out in a last round rematch verse Victoria (3rd).

Although NSW had upset QLD in the round games with a 1 nil victory, with the return of experienced campaigner Madonna Blyth and a gold medal match on the line there was an expectation that QLD would exert their dominance over NSW. Despite NSW impressive team list, throughout the tournament they had some inconsistent performances and marginally made it into the top 4 group.

Despite the above expectations and recent performances, it was QLD who were to face another year of missing on winning the much coveted AHL trophy. Although it was a tight contest throughout, NSW won with a 2-1 score line. Strong goalie work by Toni Cronk (NSW), and narrow misses up forward by QLD highest goal scorer Reggie Ashton and Kandice Olivieri, the game highlighted that hockey really is a game of inches. A shot hitting the crossbar late in the peace summed up QLD’s day, and were probably left wondering what could have been should the ball been hit 2 inches lower.

A similar story unfolded in the following semi final with WA v Victoria. With WA being strong finals contenders over a number of years and winning the previous round match just 2 days prior to the final, they were considered favorites. Victoria however got off to the ideal start, with a first half goal finished from a rebound off the WA keeper. WA persisted but was denied the initial equaliser, with a near miss by Lisa Eglington who similarly to QLD hit the post off a PC deflection.  It was not right until the half time siren that WA capitalised off a PC, and drew even from a right side deflection by Jodie Searle.

It was an even contest in the second half and it looked likely that the teams would be heading into extra time. With 16 seconds of the game remaining WA’s worst nightmare occurred when Victoria scored. A high lob towards goalkeeper Kate Hubble made for a difficult save and unfolding in slow motion the ball was then knocked in by in form Claire Messent. There was no time to spare to mount a comeback by the WA team, and Victoria deservingly went through to the AHL grand final.

The above QLD and WA circumstances regarding the ball hitting the post, elicits flashbacks of the Olympics and witnessing Megan Rivers hit the post in our first round loss to NZ. If the ball had gone in rather than hit the fateful post, would we have had the opportunity to play in an Olympic final?

It’s a frustrating thing to think about and along with many others I am first to admit that I have been culprit to pondering repetitively about close games and about what might have been. It wasn’t until recent interactions with Hockeyroo’s mentor and surfing legend Layne Beachley, that I was aware of this performance inhibiting thought. In a discussion over coffee namely about the Olympic Games performance, there was one statement that rang true and hit home. Layne was constructively candid with her advice, and helped me understand that until you accept that you weren’t good enough whether that be attitude, skills or fitness at that particular moment in time, you don’t have the ability to move on and develop as a player.

Lack of acknowledgement of the above, meant that I had the mentality that we were ‘unlucky’ to miss out on making Olympic finals, just as some might think that WA or QLD were ‘unlucky’ not to make AHL finals. But as I have since realised, it wasn’t that we were unlucky that ball hit the post or missed the net, it was that in fact we weren’t skillful, determined or fit enough to execute that skill to get the desired result.

It takes a brave and resilient athlete to acknowledge their mistakes, because as human beings we naturally avoid criticism as a form of self-preservation. Although relevant criticism is what will make us better players in the long run, the reality is naturally high achievers don’t like feeling exposed or acknowledging that they may have ‘failed’. No one and more specifically sportsmen likes losing, but if we fail to acknowledge our shortcomings, then we will never put ourselves in a position to improve enough to win.

With all of that said and done, there was still 3rd v 4th AHL playoff to take place. After losing the opportunity to play in a grand final the day prior, it takes a lot of self-motivation to be mentally switched on and prepared. Never the less state pride was on the line, and after a relatively successful tournament both WA and QLD wanted to finish on a good note. QLD scored first while WA struggled to press forward initially. WA’s situation wasn’t helped when they lost key player and Captain Kobie McGurk to an unfortunate knee injury. Loss of such a strong defensive player with a great ability to create offensive opportunities made it difficult for WA to fight back. A stroke awarded to QLD, finished by Jodie Schulz extended the lead. In an attempt to peg some goals back WA resorted to substituting keeper Kate Hubble, and replacing with an extra attacker. This was semi effective until QLD’s attack won a short corner, and without a keeper in the net WA succumbed to a straight hit, despite the brave efforts of defender Penny Squib. The final goal marked the end of the match with QLD finishing 3rd place with a 3 nil victory.

The grand final featuring NSW and Victoria followed the 3 v 4 match. NSW would have been determined to take this AHL title after losing last year’s grand final to reigning premiers South Australia. NSW certainly looked like they would not have back-to-back disappointments, getting the first goal off a short corner early in the 1st half through Georgie Morgan. It would have been easy for Victoria to lose focus at this stage but despite limited grand final experience this spurred Victoria into action pressing forward hard. A home goal compliments of NSW, saw Victoria equalise and it was clear that they were gaining momentum over what appeared a tired NSW team. It wasn’t long until the floodgates opened and in a blink of an eye Victoria had scored 4 goals in the first half. This put Victoria into a commanding position and when they scored a 5th goal in the second half, the game appeared well and truly over. The final score was 5-1 and Victoria was declared the 2012 AHL champions.

I can only hope that this years AHL finalists including WA, QLD and NSW don’t walk away saying that they were unlucky not to win. None of these teams were unlucky, simply put Victoria was better and executed team tactics and skills when it mattered most.

The only question that now remains……

 Which team will capitalise on the opportunity of losing and improve enough to win 2013 AHL campaign?

 

Australian Hockey League: Report 3

The final two round games have been played and finally the top four teams including Qld, WA, Vic and NSW have been finalised. After many close games and various teams taking points off each other, it was difficult to predict who would make 2012 finals until the final blow of the whistle on Tuesday. Sitting on 12 points prior to these last two games, WA was not safely in the finals but had given ourselves a solid lead on the points table. Realistically looking at the ladder, it was known that accumulating any points in the final 2 games would be enough to see us cement our position in the finals. With NSW and Victoria to play, amassing these points would still not be an easy task for the group.

A 9am game time vs NSW was something different for the WA team, who had been playing in the 2pm or 5pm time slot. At the 6am walk and stretch it was easy to spot the morning people looking very sprightly, in comparison to somewhat scruffy looking night owls. Being alert and ready for the game was necessary with NSW being in dire need of points due to their current standing of 5th on the ladder. Quality players including the talented Toni Cronk in the net, Casey Eastham through the midfield and goal sneak Emily Smith up forward, meant that NSW had the potential to end up with all 3 points if WA didn’t perform. Despite a strong start by WA it wasn’t well into the first half that striker Caitlin Pascov (WA) scored off a rebound. It was a much needed lead with NSW playing commanding hockey in the second half, knowing that if points weren’t salvaged their AHL campaign would be over. WA struggled to outlet for the first 10 minutes of the second half and NSW looked threatening. WA’s defence could only hold out for so long, and a high ball across the NSW attacking circle took a deflection off both the WA defender and NSW striker Emily Smith to result in a goal.

The smell of a possible victory was all NSW needed to continue their push to take the lead. Not ones for losing after being one goal up WA dug their heels in and although making some average defensive decisions towards the end of the game, walked away with a 1 all draw. Although it was great to get the required point to cement our position in the top four, it was a disappointing game for the WA team which had started the game so well. It was not a performance that would see us win the 2012 AHL final, something that we are aspiring to do in lead up to the final games.

We were not sure if it was just bad luck or there was some foul play afoot, but our journey home was somewhat interesting. Home was looking good after a hard match, when chief driver Kate Hubble (goal keeper) commented on the van steering “being out”. But alas, upon inspection it wasn’t the steering but rather a protruding nail embedded in the rear tyre. In true Gen Y style, use of a conventional phone was shunned, and the group opted to alert absent coaching staff and players of our misadventure via twitter. The group alighted the bus and made tracks to a secure tyre changing area to try our hands at manual labour.

Our attempt to get home on foot was short lived, taking a seat further down the road.

Although changing a tyre would be great team building exercise and a skill many would benefit from learning, through the help of a trailing convoy of parents the tyre was promptly changed for us. Katy Symons tried to assist in the process, only to find she was holding onto the hubcap and not the actual tyre. Despite the arduous journey home, due to the early 9am game there was plenty of the day remaining to ensure we had sufficient recovery.

Katy Symons attempting the change the ‘tyre’

Some might say that say our final game v Victoria was a dead rubber. With both teams safely in the four and likely to finish in 2nd and 3rd position, one might argue that we would not play to our capacity. Final games require momentum however and any opportunity to develop as a team against a top 4 side should be utilised. Strong midfield performances by Kate Denning and Jemma Buckley provided WA with fluent attacking opportunities. Strikers Caitlin Pascov, Katherine Slattery and Katy Symons were in fine form and clinical in their finishes resulting in 3 WA goals. A slight lapse in concentration gave Victoria the opportunity to claw their way back with two quick goals in the 2nd half. It wasn’t the motivation that we shouldn’t need as a team, but with Victoria applying scoreboard pressure, WA lifted to runaway with a 3-2 win.

With the round games completed we now look towards finals. The first semi final scheduled for 2pm on Friday is between #1 QLD and #4 NSW. Although QLD finished top of the table, NSW was the only team to beat QLD throughout the round games and should make for an interesting match. In the following semi final WA are set to match up again vs Victoria at 4:30pm. Despite WA winning the previous game, finals are always a ‘new ball game’. With new structures and tactics set to be unveiled, teams which perform under pressure and adapt effectively will progress to the Gold medal match. Head to the HockeyWA website for more details.

WA Diamonds Report 2: Australian Hockey League

After three games in three days, the playing group warmly embraced a day of rest.  It was evident that many players were suffering the effects of either playing soreness or old age, with most sporting a severe limp or exhibiting audible creaking joints. It’s hard to accept that there was a time, when one was able to play three games in one day without physical repercussions. Like any good holiday the rest day went far to quickly and the weekend games were upon us.

Saturday saw the WA Diamonds take the field verse the Queensland Scorchers in a Breast Cancer Awareness supported match. With the sun beating down at a warm 27 degrees, it was well-known by both teams that this would be a physically demanding game. Both teams were yet to drop points from previous games, and have had a history of close matches in recent years, particularly in finals campaigns.

Queensland clearly came to play from the outset and WA was caught on the back foot. Slow ball movement and failure to know our next pass, caused numerous turnovers in the midfield. Upon reviewing the game this indecisiveness clearly resulted in limited attacking circle penetrations for WA and multiple scoring opportunities for QLD. Relentless attacking pressure by the QLD team and well-executed shots on goal saw QLD head into the half time break up by 2 goals.  This was a well-deserved lead by QLD and WA certainly needed to make a significant change in attitude and skill execution to contend the game.

Once behind it is an easy option to ‘throw the towel in’ and accept defeat. Playing for WA for multiple years however, I can confidently say that this defeatist attitude is something that has never existed within the group. Although coming from 2 goals behind would be a difficult task, one could see we had come to win earning a PC within the first minute of the 2nd half.  A tomahawk shot from Lisa Eglington resulted in a goal for WA, and like wildfire enthusiasm spread through the team creating further goal scoring opportunities. Despite multiple shots on goal and the ball regularly being within inches of the goal line, the QLD defence held steadfast and repeatedly denied WA to draw the scores even.

It was a well fought game and although losing, WA walked off the field confident about future games against QLD and other quality sides. Sometimes one can learn more from defeat then winning, and undoubtedly we learnt several lessons upon comparing the two halves of the game.

The following day saw us take on the reigning champions and crow-eaters, South Australia. Despite a surprising loss to Northern Territory in an earlier match, SA had been buoyed by their win against regular final contenders NSW the previous day. For both teams this was an important game, which would greatly assist in setting the winning team up for a spot in the final four. Once again it was hot on pitch and would test both sides fitness, skills under fatigue and resolution. An early goal to newcomer Georgia Wilson (WA) set up an early and much-needed lead. Like any challenging and exciting game, SA hit back on a penalty corner just three minutes before half time. This gave some ascendency to SA heading into the break, and a strong focus by WA players was required to ensure the play was controlled from the outset of the second half. This focus paid dividends with Caitlin Pascov finding the back of the net, amidst a number of sticks and opposition players.  South Australia weren’t without their chances but with quality goal keeping from Kate Hubble, WA were able to deny the equalizer. With 5 minutes of play remaining the strategic move of substituting the SA goalkeeper with a field player was made. The extra striker in the SA attack placed the desired strain on the WA defence, making for an exciting finale. Despite several attempts by SA to breach the attacking circle, solid organisation and sheer doggedness saw WA hold off the SA advances to walk away with a well-earned 2-1 win.

Two big games in two days, and once again our bodies are celebrating the thought of another rest day.  Icing, pool recovery and only moving from the couch to the fridge will no doubt play a large part in all teams rest day schedule. With the final two matches set to be played and the top four spots still up for grabs, there is no doubt these final games will be high pressure and physically demanding.

Australian Hockey League: Match 1-3 review

As much as I love donning the green and gold bodysuit for the Hockeyroo’s, one always holds a soft spot for representing their state of origin. Growing up in Wagin and now living in Perth, I am a die-hard Sandgroper passionately defending WA from the barrage of insults often slung our way from other state and territory counterparts, usually pertaining to our lack of driving ability and trading hours.

This passion and love for WA is no different on the hockey field, and on the 16th of October both myself and 10 other top WA hockey players took to the pitch to start our campaign in taking home the Australian Women’s National Hockey Title. Despite our recent success including : 2011 – 3rd, 2010 – 1st, 2009 – 3rd, 2008 – 1st, 2007 – 1st and 2006 – 1st, nothing ever comes easy and coming away with three wins in the first three games has been a strenuous challenge.

WA fields a relatively new side with seasoned campaigners Shelley Liddelow, Jayde Taylor, Fi Boyce, Hope Munro and Shayni Nelson all absent from last years team due to retirement or injury. Despite the above quality players being absent from the side, this has given opportunity to many talented WA juniors to showcase their skills in their debut AHL.

Games against the Northern Territory Pearls, Tasmanian Tigers and Australian Capital Territory kicked started our 2 week AHL tournament. In earlier years both NT and Tasmania have been dismissed as viable top 4 sides, but 2012 has proved to be a turning point for both teams. Led by speedy Brooke Peris up forward and quality goal keeper Lizzy Duguid, NT was a difficult and well contested first game with WA coming away eventual winners at 3 – 0.  This was a good test for our group and it was pleasing to get the first win on the board, always assisting with team morale and spirit. Tasmania also proved to be a hard game, resulting in a close one nil win. Once again it took till the 2nd half for WA to find the back of the net, a disappointing aspect after creating multiple opportunities. Despite Tasmania not having any Australian Team representatives, their strong base game and on-field tenacity will make them difficult opponents throughout the competition.

Our last game in the first 3 days was ACT, with talented players including Australian fullback Anna Flanagan and New Zealand import striker Katie Glynn to contend with. Coming off the back of a 2 nil win vs the highly fancied NSW team, ACT were teeming with confidence and energy. Despite slow starts by WA in the previous 2 games, ACT was a different story. Three goals were scored early in the 1st half, compliments of young forward Katie Symonds with two field goals and one goal to midfielder Jodie Searle off a well executed corner. This allowed some breathing space heading into the 2nd half, but a quick goal to ACT within 3 minutes saw us playing inhibited hockey. Being able to stem the attacking flow of ACT and regain ascendency was an important lesson learnt, and will be vital skill against upcoming quality attacking sides.

It has been a promising start to our 2012 campaign, obtaining all 9 points up for grabs within the first 3 games of AHL. Although some may argue that we are yet to play last years top four sides and should have accumulated all 9 points, this years competition seems closer than earlier years. Wins to ACT over NSW, and NT over SA are just a few results, which highlight that any team is capable of ‘stealing’ points off another.

In upcoming matches we take on QLD Scorchers (2pm, Saturday 20th), which is set to be a blockbuster of a game with both sides yet to lose and many previous close encounters. The WA vs QLD game will not only be a great opportunity to see some of Australia’s best players in action, but funds will also be raised on the day in support of Breast Cancer.  Backing up on Sunday at 2pm, WA is set to take on reigning premiers SA who will be looking to regain ascendency after an early tournament loss.

Two difficult tasks lay ahead, but they are also two great opportunities to push for a finals campaign. We look forward to the challenge and hope to see some more local support over the weekend, for both the WA Diamonds and the ever important Breast Cancer cause.

Olympic Bulletin 6: Australia v Argentina

Devastated, heart-broken, sad, lost for words, empty – These a just a few of the words that only touch on how I am feeling at the moment. A nil all draw with world number 2 Argentina, wasn’t enough to see us through the semi-final stages of the Olympic Hockey tournament. Sport can be a harsh world, and unfortunately for us we were on the receiving end of cruel fate, finishing 3rd in our pool on goal difference behind Argentina and New Zealand (all on 10 points).

4 years of early mornings, limited sleep, injury, rehabilitation, running, skills practice and selection pressures all boiled down to 1 measly goal. It only takes a moment of brilliance or in some cases luck, but no matter how hard we tried the ball didn’t want to find its way into the back of the net. So despite accumulating 10 points in the pool round, beating world #3 Germany and drawing to world #2 Argentina, we were not destined to progress to contend for a medal.

One of the hardest draws to have played in. Post game v Argentina

Stepping back and looking logically at the situation that has unfolded over the past few weeks, I know we should be happy and proud of our efforts. Prior to coming to the Olympics, it would be fair to say that we had a number of critics indicating that we did not stand a chance nor look in contention of medalling. In true Hockeyroo style however we played with great strength and determination, to get a result higher than our current world ranking and be highly competitive with the ‘best teams’ in the world. Logic and objectivity about our efforts is however difficult to maintain after years of emotional investment.

Growing up we are often told that ‘hard work pays off’, but when you come away from an Olympics empty-handed after years of work, life doesn’t seem fair or just. So do we tell the younger generation to give up now, because realistically the chances of succeeding and winning a gold medal is slim? The answer is categorically no. Although a gold medal is the classic definition of succeeding, one would be naive to think that our hard work hasn’t resulted in some form of success. So the hard work didn’t win us a gold medal, but it has allowed us to succeed in representing our country to the best of our ability; succeed in being one of the few people in the world physically talented enough to perform on an international stage; and succeed in being a better team in comparison to the start of our campaign.

Although it would be nice to have a gold medal to show for our efforts, the valuable life lesson of learning to be proud of your achievements without material validation is currently being learnt. Being elite athletes we often feel validated and gain self-esteem through public recognition, medals and winning. With this in mind it’s no wonder that we see the physical and mental decline of retired athletes when the medals and public recognition dry up. Without getting too philosophical, owning a gold medal will not make me a better person, nor will it make me happy about myself long-term. Learning to recognise and be proud of small accomplishments (without recognition) is an acquired skill far more valuable and essential for being happy with oneself in the future.

So congratulations to the medal winners but equally congratulations to my team mates and the other Australian athletes who achieved their personal best or simply gave it their all. Don’t let the medal tally fool you. We have given our best, we have represented our country to the upmost of our ability, we have succeeded. 

Thanks to the new additions to the Nelson cheer squad!

Although our round games are over we still have the 5th/6th playoff vs China on the 10th of August. Please continue your support (like above) as a win will help the team progress up the FIH ladder.

Go Aussie!

Ashleigh Nelson #8

Olympic Bulletin 5: Australia v South Africa

I have come to the conclusion that I am not allowing my future children to get into competitive sport. After watching other events and games during this Olympics, the feeling of being out of control of team and individual performances is a nerve-racking and highly disturbing experience. In short, the constant heart palpitations isn’t healthy and the sweaty palms isn’t a particularly attractive trait. If there is anything that I have come to realise at this Olympics, is that I truly admire supporters (in particular our families) who time and time again endure 70 minutes of this physical and mental torture. It’s no wonder that post game the majority of our Australian support crew move quickly to the closest watering hole, to ease the anxiety and maintain sanity.

The mad, loud yet well-loved Hockeyroo cheer squad

Our game against South Africa certainly didn’t help our supporters cause with a narrow 1 nil win. An early field goal to Jade Close via a good passage of full field play, perhaps indicated to the support group that today may have been a little more relaxing to watch in comparison to the USA game. To South Africa’s credit however they showed the determination and persistence that they are known for, and pressed us well soon after the opening goal. This resulted in limited opportunities up forward, making it difficult to increase the lead and ease viewers stress levels. To our credit though we defended with strength and held onto the one nil win taking 3 points from the match. It was a hard game and it is evident that at an Olympic Games there are no easy games. Every team at the Olympics is buoyed by the pride and passion gained from representing their country, resulting in inspired performances and sometimes unexpected results.

5am walk pre South Africa game. Glorious London weather.

It is this pride, passion and determination that we will take into our last round game vs Argentina. Sometimes to progress through tournaments you rely on luck and other match results falling your way, but on this occasion we have put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny. This is an opportunity that hope to relish in and prove that we have rightfully earned our place in the semi-finals.
As mentioned in the previous post it was Casey Easthams 150th game v South Africa. Despite only being a youthful 23 years of age, Casey has managed to successfully and rightfully reach this amazing milestone. Although naturally talented Casey isn’t one to rest on her laurels, and take her athletic gift for granted. Casey’s constant self-analysis and willingness to take on board constructive criticism, has seen her progress into an international star and one of the games best midfielders. Note: Not only is Casey great in the team because of her on field skills, but she is also a fantastic addition to our Hockeyroos choir being the only one in the team able to hold a tune. Congratulations Casey.

The lineup pre game.

So what else has the Hockeyroos been up to in the village? In a nutshell it has all been focused on recovery. Ice baths have been heavily represented in our rooms over the past few days. Despite my hatred of sitting in a pool of similar quality to arctic waters, I am still running so they must be working. The bean bags in our lounge room have also seemed to form permanent dents from days of putting our legs up willing spontaneous recovery. With the athletics starting up and many other great sports being played  E.g. Women’s water polo quarter-final, we are not getting cabin fever relaxing in our apartments.
So come tomorrow get your green and gold on and show your support for the Hockeyroos. I apologise for any heat arrhythmias, sore throats and emotional eating that may occur throughout the game. I assure you however that no matter the result, when we take the field v Argentina we will be representing and playing for Australia to the best of our ability.
Go Aussie!
Ashleigh Nelson
#8 The Hockeyroos

Olympic Bulletin 4: Australia v USA

Watching the replay of the USA game was like watching a horror film. Throughout the clips I had my hands over my eyes, peeking every so often hoping the darkness would ease the anxiety associated with watching the film. Alas the tension did not ease, and it was difficult to relive many missed opportunities and ‘what could have been’ moments in slow motion.

I will be honest in saying the game v USA wasn’t pretty to watch and I am sure many people may have muttered the same. Sport however isn’t always pretty and every so often there will be a game that tests a teams willingness and strength to perform under pressure; this was such a game. What is important to recognise, is that despite the lack of conversion (which was disappointing) we stuck to our processes, executed the game plan and when the final whistle blew we were 1 goal up against USA. Many thanks extend to goal keeper Toni Cronk, who made an unbelievable save off an US penalty stroke to keep us in the game. It is rare for people to remember individual games and the plays throughout. What is remembered and cared about however is results and final standings; which is why I will take a hard-fought win and the 3 points that goes with it

It is true that we missed an opportunity to improve on our game vs Germany; an important step in successfully progressing through the Olympic Tournament. I can only hope that we take on board the lessons learnt from this game, to ensure that we set a higher bar come the game vs South Africa.

An embrace of excitement and relief by Toni Cronk and Emily Smith.

Not only was the game v USA a special game because it was at the Olympics, but we were fortunate enough to mark a very special milestone. Team mate Megan Rivers aka Snowy, Rivers, Nanna Rivs, Ridders played her 200th game for Australia. I feel it important to acknowledge such an achievement in this bulletin, considering the positive impact that Rivers has had on a young and developing side. Rivers is the epitome of hard work, persistence and dedication; all traits of a successful athlete. I can emphatically say that I have never trained with another athlete who is as disciplined with all aspects of the program as Megan, which is why she is a great leader and highly respected by many in the group. By setting such a high standard, she has assisted in transforming the Hockeyroos culture into one that is focused on learning, being uncompromising and progress.

Megan Rivers 200th game

I am also happy to report that the Hockeyroo cheer squad is now in full swing, with green and gold wigs dispersed throughout the crowd. Although the cheer quad are a little suspect with hitting high singing notes, they make up for it with enthusiasm. It is great having such a large Aussie contingent and I am sure that many of the male supporters are thoroughly relishing the opportunity to don many of the girls old bodysuits in a sign of support. On a more personal note I am fortunate enough to have both family and friends here which makes for a nice catchup chat post game.

Best friends from school and ultimate cheer squad members.

Next up we take on South Africa in another early morning match. Every game is a final and I am confident with more hard work and a little lactic acid on the side we can put a good performance on the park. Special mention to Casey Eastham who will be playing her 150th during this game; so young yet so much experience!

Thanks for the messages and keep wearing the green and gold.

GO AUSSIE!!

Ashleigh Nelson # 8

Bulletin 4: Australia vs Germany

“It is not the critic who counts: not the person who points out how and where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends herself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if she fails, at least she fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

- Theodore Roosevelt-

A fitting paragraph for our team who faced the difficult task of playing current world # 3 Germany, after a loss in their first Olympic game. It would have been easy for the team to become disillusioned about competing for the top 2 positions in our pool, but in true Australian spirit we fought hard and dared to lose coming out triumphant. A 3-1 win was of not one of luck or fluke, instead one of sheer hard work and discipline to stick to a physically intensive game plan. What most people don’t realise is that behind the scenes there is an underlying team confidence derived from strong and competitive training performances.

Last night we effectively transferred this confidence into the game and played uninhibited hockey; a sometimes difficult thing to do on an international stage.  No matter what a team ranks or recent success they have had, playing a team which is full of confidence and playing with flair is always a difficult task and often results in what some may consider as upsets. This was evident in the match before us, with USA beating world #2 Argentina 1-0. USA had previously beaten Argentina to qualify for the Olympics, and it was apparent they were playing with the belief and confidence that they could replicate such a performance, which Argentina struggled to match.

Mixed results in Pool B has left the final 2 spots very open, with multiple teams sitting on equal points. That being said although it is important to appreciate and enjoy your victories, Olympics is about consistent performances. We can often learn more after losing, and it is important that we analyse our winning performance with as much thoroughness as the game 1 aiming to progress. With USA up next we will need to be physically recovered and strategically prepared which calls for a ‘feet up’ day (with the occasional meeting slipped in).

Aside from feeling very Olympic yesterday, we were also feeling very royal. A trip to the village by none other than royals Kate, Will and Harry (first name basis) called for a mass frenzy out the front of the Australian building. It was clear the royals were on the Australian bandwagon with Harry holding BK (Aussie Mascot) very closely and with great care. Anna Flanagan’s height came in great use being able to snaffle a good pic of the royals amidst a swarm of people. Megan Rivers was also playing paparazzi, getting herself into prime photo snapping position, indicating potential for a post hockey career as a photographer.

In other news a shout out goes to fellow team mates Emily Smith and Ash Wells who have/are celebrating their 20th and 23rd birthdays this week. In true Hockeyroo’s fashion Happy Birthday was sung to Em Smith with gusto, helping bring her out of her teenage years. Topping off festivities was a wonderful birthday ensemble provided to Smithy suitable for the dining hall. Although secretly hoping for security to reject her at the check point, Smithy was she was free to roam the dining hall in full attire much to our delight.

Emily Smith and her birthday posse (including emus) on the way to dinner

And that’s whats been happening in the village. Next bulletin AUS v USA.

Go Aussies!

Ashleigh Nelson #8

Hockeyroos on the Olympic Pitch

Olympic Bulletin 3: Australia v New Zealand

I dreamt of it going differently. Goal to Australia in the first 5 minutes, followed by a few more resulting in a clinical win. We all know dreams and reality are different and we choose to compete in the latter realm. Our first game wasn’t the ideal way to kick-start a campaign going down to New Zealand 1 – 0. It was always going to be a difficult game with many of our last encounters being close, but with an early goal against us it meant we were playing catchup from the outset.

A few good passages of play resulting in goals shots wasn’t enough to send the ball into the back of the net, instead opting to hit the post. It is often said that sport is a game of inches, and in this game that cliché hit home. But as an athlete we put ourselves in a position to gain the enjoyment and praise from winning but therefore run the risk of losing and the feeling the heartache and criticism that goes with it. It isn’t always an enjoyable risk to take, sometimes walking away empty-handed and pondering what you were doing there in the first place; much like my experiences at the Casino.  That being said when success occurs and the team performs well, the pride and feeling of invincibility can not be accurately described. It this passion and search for perfectionism as a team, that keeps us going and will keep us persisting through the tournament. At the risk of sounding like Confucius and putting another cliché into the mix ‘it isn’t over till the fat lady sings’ and when we take on Germany we will be playing to win.

So with that spiel out the way with, I have decided to conclude this post on a lighter note including some information and photos of the flag bearer announcement ceremony (Lauren Jackson – Basketball). During the ceremony some serious celebrity spotting with the likes of media personalities (Rove McManus, Eddie McGuire and James Tobin) and sporting greats (Dawn Fraser, Layne Beachley, Steve Waugh and best of all Swiss master Roger Federer) all being present. It was a surprise performance by Aussie singer Johnny Farnham that was the highlight of the night, with ‘The Voice’ prompting immediate dance moves and out of tune singing by many of the hockey girls. Video cameras were present at the time, and I am scared that footage may come back to haunt us in the immediate future.

The famous Dawn Fraser and infamous team-mate Megan Rivers

Clearly the best celebrity photo with an all time legend Roger Federer.

As for the opening ceremony, we made a team decision not to walk. With the NZ game early on the 29th and not being able to get home from the ceremony until early in the morning, it was the best option in terms of preparation for the first game. With many of the girls having very average back and knees of an eighty year old this was also factored into the decision. Despite not being able to march, it did not stop us from kitting up and donning the green blazer with old school dunlop kicks. After the team left for the ceremony, the uniform was promptly swapped for comfy pyjamas while watching festivities from the couch.

Despite not walking in the ceremony nothing could stop us from attempting to be ridiculously good-looking in the walkout blazer and dunlop volleys.

So overall things are still positive and here’s to moving forward to the next game.

Thanks for the support!

Ashleigh Nelson