With two wins and a loss, the 40s were staring into the hard yards of the tournament. This is the engine room of tournies; frequently the teams that start strong show signs of frailty and weakness as injuries show, freak accidents happen, tiredness shows amongst even the fittest of players and random results often upset what appear to be sure-thing results.
The next two 40s matches were up against Queensland and then WA. We knew QLD had to be a must-win game and it started super well. So well in fact that I contemplated retirement two minutes in. In a somewhat miraculous move, not witnessed by any crowd cos it literally was 2 minutes into a 9.45am start, I found myself with the ball in the 25, running the base line and into the D.
What was going on.
Nicole Date’s precision coaching took over and I looked up, saw Zinga on the spot, passed her the ball and she scored.
Like a well-oiled drill.
A couple of minutes later I had some hand in setting up a PC, which Sis/Shaz stepped up and slotted home. Winning! Two nil up in the first quarter!
I literally should have retired.
Didn’t take long for more inconsistency from me to show through, give the ball away which a few passes later turned into a QLD PC which was taken with precision and the ball slammed into the backboard.
Could we hold on? Big question – or could we even get more goals, would have been the more positive outlook. Our possession hockey became critical, and I’d probably rank our performance “OK” on this but it took a breakaway from our attacking PC in the second half for the high forward to change her line behind me, ball through, missed by defender and GK alike for QLD to latch onto the opportunity and equalise.
I definitely should have retired from hockey two minutes into the game. I got the well-deserved spray from the coach after my initial error and whilst I got myself back into the game, it will play on my mind for probably several years to come.
With that game finishing in a draw, getting into the 1v2 play off was looking like very hard work and needed some other results to go our way. We had to bounce back against WA the next day.
The morning start against WA proved to be almost as challenging as QLD – the night before our QLD we had all dutifully gone to bed early, only to be woken up by a fire alarm. Thankfully we weren’t standing around (on the street in our PJs) for long before we trekked back to bed to reboot the going to sleep for an early game process. The following morning for the WA game we got to the grounds before they were even opened… but were jovial about the fact that yet another fire alarm back at the accommodation had got everyone else up early too.
To the game itself… WA started strongly. Not least because as soon as I put my mouthguard in I felt a wave of nausea overwhelm me and I started to gag. Seeing me not even remotely prepared, WA hit their push back straight to me and I struggled to gain composure and possession. Note to self; if I am going to feel like gagging when I put my mouthguard in, at least get this out of the way BEFORE the whistle blows for the start of the game. I don’t wear my mouthguard in the warm up at all..
Irrespective of my stuff up we were on the backfoot early into the game, I was finding myself struggling with their RW play down my left channel; with the right wing speed once she got to the ball they were playing the ball inside very well with quick passes leaving us running back. I knew this was how they played from having watched them in an earlier game and I knew I had to adjust my game, what with being probably half a yard of pace due to fitness deterioration over the last few months with various injuries. I was annoyed it took me half way through the second quarter to get to grips with it.
By which time I had been interchanged, done a mother of all spews, felt heaps better and bounced back. In the second quarter WA went ahead via a PC but not be outdone, we equalised with Nanski’s effort. Once again creeping further ahead in the goal-scoring tally. Later in the quarter a hit through from Nan found Jane floating about in the D, she vaguely swatted her stick at the ball and superbly deflected it into the goal.
2-1 up again… could we hold on this time?
Unlike the previous day’s effort, we were much more skilled in our approach to holding the lead. And we almost did it.
I had tried making friends with the umpire earlier on with my boundless supply of positive calling – well this is what we were told to do. Nan had a shocking cold and was feeling dreadful, so when she half-hacked up a lung during the second half I yelled out “It’s only in your mind Nan, you can do this!” To which the umpire my side of the field said to me “Pretty sure it’s in her chest actually.”
Despite this, it took a lack of discipline from me – a “Ball or player not both” moment resulting in a late challenge from behind from me and a slight shoulder = Green Card. Dutifully I ran off to the naughty chair thoroughly ashamed at what I had done, and the timing of it. Totally, not cool. Or calm, collected hockey which is what we were supposed to be about. Interchanged as soon as my time was up I stuffed some lollies in my gob (the earlier spew had resulted in me seeing stars just before I got carded – which is in no way, shape or form an excuse. It’s evidence of how badly prepared I was, and I am experienced enough to know better).
Following some strong attacking play down the left, a gap in our defence opened up and was exploited by WA as a result and the sad equaliser was slotted home from yet the breakaway effort. I returned to the field, even more sadly we then copped a yellow card for not being five, Bronwyn’s turn on the naughty chair, the goalie was taken off and we threw everything we had back at WA. We even created some chances… it was probably the most attacking I have been at LH in terms of driving forwards, but it wasn’t to be.
No chocolates and another draw meant we resigned ourselves to a ¾ play off.
Whilst ultimately that is what happened, turns out it was only by one point – NSW ran out of legs and players and lost their last two games (they played two GKs throughout the tournie and ended up putting one of them on as high strike in one game).
We called ourselves the unluckiest team in the comp.
Our final round robin match was against ACT and it didn’t mean anything – but Victorian Pride. Impact players Nan and Jane were left on the bench to start with, along with myself presumably to rest my various injuries, and as the game started I was prompted to recall how most matches against ACT are the scrappiest matches around. And I’m not sure why.
We got ourselves a goal in the first half thanks to youngster Katy, who celebrated and partied like it was 1999. And good on her too! Always awesome to see those goals go in. At half time us three benchers gave the crowd a masterclass in hitting up, something for them to admire, and slowly in the second half we were drip-fed on.
I made my entrance first and survived a shocking hack tackle in the D (oppo player was duly carded) and in the final quarter, Nan and Zinga took the field, we got two goals, and the three of us all then left again.
I like to think I was part of that impact, but not really. Three zip it finished to the mighty Victorians. Then we all trolled off to our final recovery session in the Mereweather Baths – only to find all the water had disappeared. Thankfully Nan, being a Newcastle resident of yesteryear, knew another spot, so off to the Nobbys we went where we precariously walked on the edge of a very slippery slope whilst watching a gannet swoop into the pool.
“Is that a duck or a bird?” said Sally.
Final game. Against WA again. I’ll keep it short and sweet. We lost 3-1.
For me it was probably one of the better games of the tournament; it was hot and hard work. We were on the backfoot again from the start but I got quicker onto the “right wing game plan” than in the previous game against them. Two nil down in the final quarter we made a real effort in the final turn, with Shaz getting one back. Everything was being thrown at them, Nan unfortunately was too injured to continue beyond the first half, but we just didn’t convert any more chances. Meanwhile, Sally was interchanged again so she could work on her bird-watching, and even with brave Slapper in the kicking back role, WA got another goal from free play.
The game finished with me attempting a toma shot (not too shabby I might add but excellently defended); with all our effort and heart left on the field there wasn’t much we could do except just rue the chances that might have been.
So no rose gold for the 40s. But there are some other commendable efforts that should be called out.
To the 45d: simply immense. The semi final against NSW, where they won 4-3 and had to cling on, having been 3-0 at one stage, that was incredible enough. But to win in style as they did against WA, with more amazing goals (“What missing finger?” Lizzie Laird), was just a joy to watch. Amazing effort, stunning win and fabulous world cup call ups for many, deserved.
The 35s, who had a fantastic grind-out win against Tassie in their semi, just had QLD come out harder, faster, stronger in their final but did come away with shiny silver medals and bag-loads of experience for many newbies. Huge call out to those who have also got the world cup call ups too.
The 55s had to go to a shoot-out but missed out on bronze. Play of the day was Spud’s shoot-out; from having missed the round-robin, she showed her metal and experience with a keeper lob. Just amazing.
And overall, the Victorian contingent had their most successful contingent outing since 2005. Every team finished 4th or higher (every team was in fact playing for a medal on the final day). Kudos to all.
And for us 40s? Doubtless like all sides we have struggled with the return to reality. Julz celebrated her 40th birthday with us, then again with her home crew; Bachelorette updates have been filling the Whatsapp inbox; work has been hard to come to terms with… the unluckiest team around missed out on ½ by a point, then missed out again on a medal.
An amazing bunch of girls and despite the hard work, a really fun tournament to have been a part of. Incredible roomies, so a shout out to Nan, JD and George. I made the entire 10 days WITHOUT HAVING TO WEAR A RIDICULOUS OUTFIT!! How about that for flying low beneath the radar?! Not sure how it happened, but having Nan’s ear for “I think such-and-such would be a good fines master” was a good tactic I utilised.
Paula, Jane, Nan and Sally have made the 40s world cup team which is just fantastic for them, what an exciting thing to look forward to for next year – a trip to Spain! Or possibly even Catalonia… watch this political space.
And as for me?
Well after several months now of managing knee pain (I’m banned from everything apart from swimming now), concussion from three head knocks, broken foot, inconsistent tournament performance… I was wondering if, post-tournament, it was time to take a break. For a bit. If not forever.
If those darned selectors haven’t picked me as a shadow for the world cup team… As I said to my boss, I put my chances of going at <10%. But what an absolute honour to be even considered in the same mix as some players around me.
I messaged a non-hockey friend the night I found out on my shadow-ness; “I was going to retire!” I half-whinged.
“As if!” she replied.