A few days ago, in a pitch side meeting after training, I found out that I had been named International Goalkeeper of the Year! The announcement was made in front of our whole program including all the girls and boy did I feel special! I was completely shocked but also instantly grateful and proud having missed out on the award on two occasions previously. My team mates were so supportive and genuinely happy for me to get the individual recognition which is quite rare in our sport.
What does the award mean to you?
I absolutely love hockey and have always worked tirelessly to become the best goalkeeper and person I can be. Having been nominated 3 times it was always a tough ask to win this award as the voting is based partially on a public vote and hockey does not have anywhere near the following that it does in Europe and South America. 2018 and 2019 were two of my best years as a keeper so to be awarded this title of International Goalkeeper of the Year was just amazing. My desire as an athlete is to always help our team succeed but to receive some individual recognition made me feel very proud of the role I play in the Hockeyroos and the contribution I have been able to make towards our success.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an athlete/goalkeeper?
I have played 223 games for Australia over 14 years yet during that time I would have sat on the bench or been left at home on another 250 plus occasions. I have had times where I've been the number 1 keeper, the number 2 keeper and the number 3 keeper. Twice I missed out on the Olympics which meant ten years of hard work before making my debut at the Rio Olympics. This was really challenging! It took a long time for me to realise that I couldn't rely on the coaches to give me belief. I had to find it myself. Even now in the form of my career I still miss out on games regularly for various reasons. But over time I learnt that the only competition for me was myself and that the belief had to come from within. I have a fierce desire to perfect my craft and be the best in the world at what I do so that's what I focus on each day. My hard work at training and consistent performances has given me the belief in myself that I need to perform under the pressure of competition.
Who has played a key part in your hockey journey?
There have been so many people who have played a part in my 21 year hockey journey. My family have been by my side and ridden the wave of emotions that come with elite level sport. They have seen me compete at Commonwealth Games, World Cups and the Olympics, cheering me on when we succeed and squeezing me tight when we don't. I love them dearly and will be forever grateful for their support.
When reflecting on those who have been most influential to me as a hockey player there are four names that come to mind. Four incredible women who were there when I started hockey and remain as great friends and role models to this day.
Michelle Flouch - My goalie coach for many years at the Victorian Institute of Sport and the one who has taught me the technique that makes up my base game today. I learnt the foundations of goalkeeping from Michelle and it has allowed me to have a really solid and consistent technique. I love working on my basics as we spent hours and hours and hours on them when I was a teenager. Michelle taught me to fall in love with the boring stuff as goalkeeping is actually quite a simple position when you break it down. Good hands, kick with power and accuracy both feet, stand in the right spot and goalkeeping is easy! I love Michelle's sense of humour, her direct approach and most of all her passion for goalkeeping. I recently wrote a piece on Michelle which you can read here.
Ash Wells - I have played majority of my hockey with Ash, even though she is 3 years younger, as she debuted for Australia in 2011 and has also been a regular keeper for Victoria over the years. As team mates and friends we have battled for spots for years yet the relationship is more than just about goalkeeping. We compete yes but we support each other always. We have so much respect for each other as keepers and people in general so the support and friendship always takes priority. Following Ash's debut in 2011 she jumped ahead of me in the Olympic year and was then picked as the reserve for the 2012 Olympics. Ash has since played 119 games for Australia and in 2016 again took on the role of reserve keeper at the Rio Olympics. An incredibly difficult task. With so many tough times I have so much admiration for her resilience and commitment plus the way she carries herself around the group. An unsung hero of the Hockeyroos and one of my greatest friends.
Rachel Dwyer (nee Imison) - As a young hockey player I only ever wanted two things: Win gold at the Olympics and to be like Rach Imison. I was fortunate enough to play alongside Rach for my first two years in the senior Victorian team and then again for two years with the Hockeyroos. Meeting your idol is one thing but rooming together and representing the country together is a whole other level. Ive always been open with my admiration for Rach and not just because she was a gold medalist and Australia's number one goalkeeper for ten years. Rach is a high achiever off the field and really taught me firstly the importance of having balance but also that you can be successful in life outside of hockey as well. Rach got Dux of her year level at uni, worked at the children's hospital in Perth and is now a medical doctor. I am so thankful for everything Rach taught me and I aspire every day to share those same messages with the younger athletes in the Hockeyroos.
Stacia Strain (nee Joseph) - Stac has been a team-mate, coach and friend of mine for nearly 20 years now. Coming through we shared so many fun times representing Victoria. Ill never forget the day where we both got to live out our dream of playing for Australia but did so side by side on the pitch. Stac has taught me so many things along the way and even more so now that she has stepped away from playing and works as the Victorian Institute of Sport Women's Hockey Coach. Here are a few of quotes Stac often shares with me.
"You can't be what you can't see" - I was fortunate to have Rach as a role model coming through and now more than ever aim to give back to the hockey world by sharing my time, experience and knowledge with the upcoming athletes and goalkeepers
"People don't remember what you achieve, they remember how you made them feel" - Stac reminds me of this regularly and we often discuss the topic during the tough times. I aspire to be a great person and role model, not just a hockey player, so use this quote as a reminder that every interaction matters. I love building relationships and helping people so I do hope that Im remembered for my kindness and leadership not just my hockey 🙂
"Hockey is just preparing you for life afterwards" - It's an easy thought once you have finished sport but this quote is one that comes up a lot in the more challenging times. Receiving harsh feedback, having difficult conversations, working with people you may not get along with, building relationships, and taking the hits. All of these build the character and resilience required for the big wide world that is waiting for us athletes!
What does the future hold for you?
I have never felt like I've put my life on hold to play hockey which is probably the reason I have been able to do it for so long. I have a fantastic job as a nurse, run my own online business STOMP Goalkeeping, volunteer with various charities and have an amazing network of friends and family across Australia. I have lived in Perth for ten years now but take every opportunity I get to go home to be with my favourite people. After many of my friends retired post RIO Olympics I decided I still had more to give and wanted to leave a legacy with the younger Hockeyroos around the importance of life balance and being an all round good human. As a goalkeeper I know I can still improve so while that is the case I will continue to play as I absolutely love it! Representing my country, alongside great mates, is one of the coolest things you can do. We have an amazing opportunity to do great things in Tokyo and I can't wait for the opportunity to chase Gold with this team!