Pro League recap - Beating the Dutch in game 1
After much anticipation and a two year long build up, the FIH 2019 Pro League has begun. There was a level of uncertainty around the concept but from a players’ perspective it was very exciting to be given the opportunity to play home and away games around the world for 6 months straight. How cool is that! I love the travel involved in competing with the Hockeyroos but I realize the huge cost and the logistics were always going to be a challenge.
Games began around the world in January but for Australia it was Melbourne who would host round 1 and 2 of our campaign. For the Hockeyroos you could not have asked for a better game to kick of the tournament than Australia v Holland. We came very close to defeating Holland for the first time at the World Cup last year but just couldn’t find the back of the net in our 1 on 1 shoot out after the full time draw. I’ve personally had some very memorable matches against them (including the World Cup) but none more so than round one of the 2019 Pro League.
Here is a quick re cap of how the day went down:
Both teams were staying at a nice apartment complex only ten minutes from hockey. We had shared apartment style rooms where we could cook our own meals and keep the game day as routine and comfortable as possible. We started our morning with a walk and stretch at the park across the road. This is quite individual and gives each athlete a chance to activate their body however they need. For me it’s a light jog, quick roll of the legs on a foam roller, stretching then into some fun games with the team. The Hockeyroos have a great collection of games we like to play and all usually end in lots of laughter. We are all competitive people so it is great to get the brain and body going early on game day.
We were not playing until 5pm, which meant plenty of free time throughout the day. Our team meeting was a quick recap of what we know about Holland then some clear focus points for us and the game plan we would need to execute to perfection in order to beat the top team in the world. My preparation is always going a little more detailed as I like to research and understand all of their corner variations, who flicks/hits/slaps and where they prefer to put them and of course their one on one takers. Normally the one on ones are only part of scouting for finals but with the change in Pro League a draw now means shoot outs. This means we now need to be prepared for possible shoot-outs every single game. Despite the fact we have been sharing the goals half/half during the game, the shoot-outs are my specialty so I am prepared ready to go no matter if I play first half or second half.
During the day I like to stay busy and spend a fair bit of my time socializing, I’m not a coffee drinker but will happily walk to a café a couple of times throughout the day to enjoy a chai latte myself or to sit with the girls. I am not too particular with my food as being flexible is important when we travel but given we were in Melbourne it was easy for me to go with my preference of rice cakes with ham, avocado and tomato. I usually have this meal two to three hours before the game. My three room mates all like to nap so I vacated the room giving them a nice quiet space to let them sleep. This can be a great way to freshen up the body before a game or to kill some time but I struggle to fall asleep during daylight hours so prefer to just busy myself with other things.
Arriving at the ground there was a great vibe amongst the group. Driving in we could see the packed car park, which meant a large and very Australian crowd there to support us. I knew all my hockey friends would be attending given Melbourne is my home but preferred to keep this thought out of my mind so as not to add any unnecessary pressure. We usually arrive about an hour before our game and luckily with the Pro League this often means being able to watch a bit of the mens game. Our boys had a bit of a rough start but it is calming none the less to watch a bit of hockey before we head out to play. Immediately prior to warm up our team gathered in the change room for a bit of pump up music and some singing. This is something the group like to do to get everyone feeling relaxed and happy before the serious work begins. We completed our warm up as usual and hit the field for game 1.
I was playing second half so could relax a bit during the first half. I keep my mind involved by calling and encouraging from the side but also by chatting to the girls as they come off to ensure I am across everything that is happening on the pitch. Every five minutes I will run up and down the side to keep my body moving.
Half time came and went then it was my turn to hit the field. The team was playing very well leading 1-0 and we had limited the Dutch scoring opportunities to just one shot in the first half. This was not the case in the second. From early on I was getting peppered! Early touches always make me feel good as you get into the game quickly but I have learnt not to rely on them as sometimes minute 59 will be the first and only save you have to make and it can be crucial. The challenge against Holland is never like that though. Its how many times can you continue to shut them out until the flood gates open!
Having not beaten Holland in nearly ten years I was more motivated than ever to hang on and keep making those crucial saves to keep us in it. The girls were playing so well and we all wanted it so badly. With 3 minutes to go we started holding the ball in the corner and desperately willing the clock to count faster. As the last minute approached the excitement was building. This was it. We had done it. We held the ball and again secured it safely in the corner until finally the siren sounded. In front of 5,500 screaming fans we could finally celebrate an historic victory over the Dutch. Hugs, high fives, smiles and cheers. You could tell by the girls faces how much it meant, especially to us old girls who have felt every single one of those losses over ten years.
Before I could make it to the bench I was collected by the broadcaster and our Hockey Australia president Mel who were presenting me with the Player of the Match award for the game. A fabulous honor and I was truly flattered! The lap around the field afterwards was incredible. I felt so proud to be able to finally beat them and to do it in Melbourne in front of my partner, family and friends was amazing!
Thanks to Grant Treeby - Treeby Images for the photos!