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News for 15 January 2021

All the news for Friday 15 January 2021

Gurjit Kaur: “Need to be alert in our defence against Argentina”

Buenos Aires, 14 January 2021: Building up to the Olympic Games in July, the Indian women’s hockey team is keen on making every opportunity count and the 8-match tour in Argentina provides one such opportunity where the team can assess their game.

“Playing against a strong team like Argentina in their home ground won’t be easy but our focus will be on bringing out our best play against them. This will be our first competitive match in almost a year and we are keen on learning where we stand in terms of fitness and execution against a top team like Argentina who are currently ranked No.2 in the world,” stated India’s ace dragflicker Gurjit Kaur.

She added that it will be a good test to assess their mental and physical strength.

“We worked really hard on our fitness over the past 11 months in SAI and the aim was to return to our best form. It is against teams like Argentina where we can test our potential.”

Having cloaked a few good sessions of hockey after arriving in Argentina, Gurjit feels the team is shaping up well ahead of their first game on Sunday.

“We have been here nearly ten days and have got a few sessions on the pitch. We have paid extra attention to areas such as PC conversion and PC defending. We need to be alert in our defence if we have to do well against Argentina,” she said.

While the team’s focus is on ticking off all the boxes ahead of their first game, Gurjit emphasized the importance of following protocols due to the on-going pandemic.

“We are extremely grateful to Hockey India and the Argentina Federation for ensuring a safe bio bubble environment here. We are in a good hotel which is about 20-25 minutes’ drive from the ground, the food is good and SOPs on the ground is followed to the T. It’s important to be responsible and just focus on the job at hand.,” Gurjit stated.


Countdown to Tokyo: Meet the Tomlinsons

Jackie (centre) and David Tomlinson (far right) pictured alongside fellow New Zealand officials Simon Taylor (far left), Kelly Hudson (centre left) and Amber Church (centre right)

At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Great Britain’s Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh became the first married couple to win an Olympic gold medal as part of the same team since 1920, when Cyril and Dorothy Wright achieved the feat in the sailing competition.

The hockey competition at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo will also feature a married couple, although neither Jackie Tomlinson or her husband David will be chasing medals or even holding a hockey stick, for that matter. Well, not on the field of play, at least.

In September of 2019, Jackie and David – who are both teachers at Palmerston North Boys High School – were named on the officials list for Tokyo 2020, Jackie in the role of Technical Official and David on the umpire’s panel. It will be a first Olympic Games for either of the Tomlinson duo, ensuring that there is double excitement about the prospect of their trip to Japan later this year.

We caught up with Jackie and David – who has umpired 97 international matches, just three games short of earning his Golden Whistle – to talk about their appointment as well as their hopes and ambitions for the year ahead.

Jackie and David, thank you so much for joining us. We think you might be the first married couple to be appointed to an Olympic hockey competition! Starting with you, Jackie, can you tell us about your journey as an official?

Jackie Tomlinson: “It’s been pretty short, really! I started in 2013 at an Oceania Cup event in New Zealand as an appointed judge, then did a few tournaments in New Zealand and Australia. I got appointed to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, before that I did the World League Final here in Auckland. At that stage they were discussing the possible launch of the Pro League, and I was sitting there thinking that it was going to be really cool for all these people next year, something to look forward to. And then suddenly I am on the Pro League panel, which was a bit of a shock for me - it felt like I’d come from nowhere, and it’s been a bit the same for the Olympics as well. I went to the [Ready, Steady, Tokyo] test event in 2019 not expecting anything to come out of it, it was just a cool opportunity, and it was great to work with different officials. Then I opened my emails at some ridiculous time in the morning and said to David, ‘I think you’d better check your emails!’ For me, it was a completely out of the blue appointment, really – it wasn’t even on my radar.”

You must be incredibly excited. Clearly there has been the delay by one year, but just the prospect of going to Tokyo later on this year must be amazing for you.

Jackie: “Yes, definitely. And to share it with David, that is just [wonderful]. Really looking forward to it.”

And David, what does Tokyo selection mean to you? The thought of going there, especially after the last year that we have had?

David Tomlinson: “It’s still quite surreal. I was lucky enough to go to the World Cup [in 2018], and the Olympics is always a dream. But it’s always something that is a little bit out of our control, in terms of performance. We do the best we can and hope for the best. To get appointed – Jackie found out about 2.30 in the morning, then she gave me the elbow and said ‘hey, check your email!’ – we still had a lot of water to go under the bridge, including two terms with the teaching, the Pro League and a trip to Belgium which was on the cards. And then it got called off, but for it to still be there, it’s really exciting. The vibe around everyone, it’s strange [due to the situation], but everybody is in the same boat. It’s still really exciting, an amazing opportunity.”

As teachers, how do you combine this with your working life? Are your bosses quite understanding to your sporting needs?

David: “Our boss at the school is phenomenal. Part of their ethos is that they really like to see their staff succeeding, and for our boys who we teach to see staff succeeding. They have been incredibly supportive and allowed us both to take some really amazing opportunities. There is certainly give and take, and we’ve both had to turn down some pretty amazing opportunities – we can’t say yes to everything as we are teachers and have to work for a living, but they are fantastic.”

As we know, 2020 was a very difficult year for all sorts of reasons. What are your hopes for 2021?

Jackie: “To get locked back into international hockey would be amazing. We are lucky here in New Zealand, as we had some domestic hockey last year. But to get some Pro League matches happening again would be amazing. Let’s hope Tokyo goes ahead, as we are really looking forward to catching up with all the people there. It could be an interesting experience.”

David: “I feel the same. As Jackie said, we are really fortunate being in New Zealand, where life has to a degree carried on. We’ve had sport. It has been different. If we can get some international games back up and running, and particularly for us, being able to travel or teams come to us, we’ll see what happens after that. I think like most people, we’ve missed the contact with people and just being involved, so we are really looking forward to being part of that again.”

FIH site

Squibb determined to make most of second Hockeyroos chance

Hockeyroos defender Penny Squibb is living proof of someone who has been knocked down, dusted themselves off, learnt from the experience and done everything to bounce back.

You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. Penny is a country girl at heart having been raised on a farm in Tambellup, a town situated 300 kilometres south east of Perth.

The 27 year old now finds herself back in the Hockeyroos fold after being in the national squad in 2019 only to be dropped for 2020.

But rather than wallow in self pity, Penny used the COVID affected last 12 months to better every area of her game that needed improving. Her persistence, perseverance and unwavering love of the game has seen her receive a second coming of sorts as she secured a place in the Hockeyroos squad in an Olympic year.

Penny is as grounded as any elite athlete could be and she is ready to use her experiences, particularly of the past two years, to hers and her Hockeyroos teammates’ advantage heading into 2021.

We caught up with her after she spent some time back at home to find out how she managed to make it back into the Hockeyroos squad and why this time around she knows it will be different for the better.

Did you have a nice break over Christmas?

PS: “I went home to the farm for two weeks which was nice to get out of Perth and chill out for a while. It’s always nice to have the whole family together.”

Have you still got your bedroom from when you lived there?

PS: “It’s exactly the same actually. My brother, sister and I have still got our rooms at the house from when we were kids.”

It has been over a month since the announcement that you are back in the Hockeyroos squad. How does it feel?

PS: “I felt a little bit nervous going back for my first training session, even though it was only a small group of us. You are not sure what to expect or what to feel. I’m guessing when the whole squad is together that I’ll get those nerves again, but it was nice to relax a little bit and take myself away from everything that was happening. The hype of being selected, to be able to go away and spend some time on the farm. I find I’m one of those people that can think about a lot of different things all the time and can almost play scenarios in your head before they happen.”

You must have shown your wares and what you are capable of at the selection camp?

PS: “That was one of my goals going into it…to purely just play hockey. When I relax and not think too much about every aspect of the game, I generally play better because I play on my natural instincts. So that was a big thing for me. Coming into this year you learn from the coaches and everyone else, but at the end of the day you’ve got to enjoy working hard and playing hockey because that’s what we’re there for.”

Everyone has their own story of how they made this squad and yours is unique in that you were in the squad in 2019 and then found yourself out of it after one year. What does it mean to you to be given another opportunity?

PS: “There is a bit of relief and also a feeling of accomplishment. After my deselection at the end of 2019, I had meetings with Goodas (Head Coach Paul Gaudoin) and we decided that it was a matter of me putting my head down, working hard and improving on the things I needed to. That’s what I went out to do last year…put myself in the best position I possibly could to get reselected. I was comfortable at the end of last year that if I didn’t get selected that I had done everything I could have to put myself in that position. Mum and dad have always told us kids that at the end of the day, as long as you can say you have done everything you could, you have to be comfortable with that because it’s only yourself that is going to eat you up about it. Heading into the selection camp I knew I had done everything I could and that gave me confidence going into not only the camp, but also this year. To be in the squad now, it is kind of nice to know that all the hard work has been noticed. Now the hard work starts again.

After I was dropped I knew I still wanted to play hockey. I worked as a relief teacher and in a hockey shop last year, and both of those jobs allowed me to keep playing hockey. To get picked in the Hockeyroos again, it was the first step in making sure that it’s not going to be a repeat of last time. When I first got picked it was almost a sigh of relief but also overwhelming because I didn’t know how to respond or react. Now I semi know what is expected and the pressures, demands and everything that comes with high performance sport…and I’m better equipped to deal with them all. I’m looking forward to this year because I have been there and I’d like to impart what I’ve learnt to the group.”

If there is a silver lining to being dropped in 2020 it is the fact that the Olympics have been postponed by 12 months due to COVID and now you’re in contention to make the team for Tokyo?

PS: “I thought my Olympic dream was gone and then all of a sudden COVID hit. So when it was postponed, it became a matter of working hard to put myself in contention. The Olympics is the ultimate goal but it is also making sure that every day I’m getting better so you give yourself that chance to get picked.

Years of different hockey and working at schools, you soon realise that if you only do what you have to, you set yourself up to fall from what you think is ok. Whereas if you can keep looking at ways to get better, then you are going to get better.”

How did your love of hockey start for you?

PS: “I think I was six years old when I played my first hockey game and it came about because my older sister broke her arm at a birthday party. My older sister and brother both played and my dad was the coach and we needed an extra player, so that’s how I started.

For our family Saturdays were all about hockey. We would go to hockey at 9am for my game and we would stay there until 8pm at night having dinner because my brother, sister and dad would all have their games throughout the day. That’s where my love of the game came from. I played all of my juniors in Tambellup and didn’t play on synthetic turf until I was 13. I think everyone should have a training session on the grass because you certainly learn to watch the ball more than what you do on turf.

I got picked in my first state team when I was 14. I was still living on the farm so mum and dad used to do the eight hour round trip to Perth every week for ten weeks. Every Friday I would miss half a day of school, we would drive to Perth, train Friday night and Saturday morning and then drive back to Tambellup for hockey on Saturday afternoon.

A year later I moved to Perth for school because my local school was getting smaller and my parents were about giving us the best opportunity in both sport and academia. I continued playing hockey at Curtin University and made my way up from there. I think my first year at the West Australian Institute of Sport was in 2012, so it was just a matter of keeping at it. There was never a time I didn’t love hockey and I kept coming back to the fact that I still wanted to do it. Playing hockey was the one thing in the world that I wanted to do and that is still the case now.”

Is it fair to say that you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl?

PS: “Definitely. That’s one of my favourite sayings. When I was back on the farm during the break I needed to do a long steady run and dad needed to do some sheep work, so he told me I can run behind the sheep. That was my run, 45 minutes running behind sheep getting them into the yards. One of my first days back at the farm was on the tractor feeding the cows and I really enjoy that because it gets my brain off hockey and out of Perth. It allows me to be me and it is relaxing. So that saying is very true for me.”

Would you say your hockey journey has been one of persistence considering you have been at WAIS since 2012 and you are now getting to have your second crack with the Hockeyroos?

PS: “When I first got picked I had some messages from people about persistence and perseverance and sticking with it. I spoke with some of the older WA Hockeyroos girls who were from the country and they said that time you have to work that bit harder or longer for it makes it more special in terms of knowing how hard you have worked. That day you get to put on the Hockeyroos uniform to play an international is not just the training sessions from the last six weeks that you’ve done, it is the training you’ve done over the last six years. As elite athletes I think we sometimes get caught up in the moment and forget about what made us love the game in the first place. If you keep finding that enjoyment you are only going to get better.”

What did you do in your time away from hockey last year?

PS: “I really enjoyed relief teaching and found that was a great release from hockey. The students are at school and don’t really care who you are or where you’ve come from. You are just their teacher so I really enjoyed that and am going to try and keep doing it this year.”

Hockey Australia media release

Power to Aleisha for breaking into Hockeyroos squad

Aleisha Power has never shied away from a challenge and she has overcome her fair share to securing her first Hockeyroos contract.

The talented goalkeeper from Northam in Western Australia who turned 24 on New Years Day considered giving up the game numerous times, largely due to self doubt.

But last year, in a time where COVID took hold of everything, Aleisha used it to discover a new lease on life, learnt to be at peace with herself and realise what she is capable of.

Aleisha is overflowing with a determination to prove doubters wrong, much of which stems back from her childhood where we was constantly bullied at school.

She helped Victoria Park Xavier Hockey Club win its first Women’s Division 1 Premiership last year alongside fellow Hockeyroos Jane Claxton, Georgia Wilson and Karri Somerville.

Now, after being a standout at last November’s national selection camp, Aleisha has a self belief and is in a place both on and off the field knowing the only thing that can hold her back is herself.

In between her busy schedule, which includes two part time jobs, she took some time to talk about ow she has come to be one of three goalkeepers in contention to represent Australia in women’s hockey at the Tokyo Olympics.

Happy Christmas and New Year. How has your break been?

AP: “Summer is usually when I work the most so I’ve been doing quite a bit of that. I went to the beach for my birthday with some mates which was fun and caught up with some cousins as well.”

It has been over a month since you were announced in the Hockeyroos squad. Has it sunk in yet?

AP: “We had our first modified training back yesterday and when I got there it still felt like I wasn’t in the team so I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. But once things start ramping up I think it will hit home that I’m here now.”

Do you think that adds to the excitement of it all?

AP: “I love to be challenged so if anything is thrown at me or seems difficult at the time, as much as being challenged is hard, I really enjoy it. I am a bit of a perfectionist so I have this determination to work things out and get better at something.”

2020 was a year like no other for everyone. Can you take us through what the last 12 months has been like for you?

“It is kind of funny because I had no focus on my hockey at the start of it. I still wanted to play well and had the idea of hopefully being invited to the selection camp, but I have spent the last 12 months working on my life and making sure I was happy and felt fulfilled.

There was a period of time where I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere in hockey, my studies or my work. I had three months off from the West Australian Institute of Sport and after the isolation period due to COVID I thought I’m not ready to come back to this yet. There were things that I needed to do in my personal life and I think that had a huge impact on how I went into the selection camp mentally. I went into it thinking that I’ve done everything I can off the field to put myself in the best state to perform, and I didn’t feel any pressure. I think it was my fourth senior camp so I went in there with nothing to lose because I felt so stable off the field.

I think that’s why I played well because I didn’t feel the pressure to be successful on the field because of what I had done off of it.”

So last year was a time that you re-evaluated everything?

AP: “I took a step back and asked myself why I haven’t gotten anywhere. I wrote a list of eight things I wanted to achieve in 2020 and none of them were hockey related. Things like do a Diploma of Business, make your bed every morning…things like that. I felt so fulfilled by the end of the year so when I went into the selection camp I gave it everything because I had done so much during the year that it didn’t matter what happened at the camp…I just wanted to put it all out there and knew I wouldn’t be disappointed regardless of what happened.”

Do you think that helped you perform at the selection camp?

AP: “I told myself that I am good enough and capable of selection, so that mindset of giving everything to this, I knew I could do it. It was a real self belief…that if you believe in yourself and that you are capable, then that is the only opinion that really matters. In the past 12-18 months I have had this shift in mindset.”

What does it mean to you to be selected in the Hockeyroos squad for an Olympic year?

AP: “The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport and ever since I was a kid I have wanted to go to the Olympics. Being picked for the Hockeyroos in an Olympic year is this opportunity that I have wanted my whole life, so it’s an incredible opportunity. Nothing is confirmed yet and I have to earn my spot but I’m really excited.”

Have you set yourself any individual goals for 2021 or is the focus to train as hard as you can and see where it leads?

AP: “I think I have developed a lot of good habits. I’m constantly trying to work hard and accepting when things don’t go right. The Olympics are on this year and I’m in the mix so my goal is to make the Olympic team. There are three of us (goalkeepers) in the squad and only one goes to the Olympics so I’ve just got to do my best. It is going to be difficult but I like challenges. I like it when people doubt me because I find so much satisfaction proving people wrong.”

You’ve already had a taste of being a Hockeyroo when you played in a home series in Adelaide against Japan in 2017. What are your memories of that time and how did the opportunity come about?

AP: “In 2016 I went to the Junior World Cup. We won a bronze medal and I was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament. The following year I missed out on selection for the senior national squad and they had a follow up camp which I attended but didn’t get picked. I was pretty devastated but was still relatively young and knew if I gave it a good shot and had a good Australian Hockey League (AHL) that I could possibly get a Hockeyroos debut. I worked hard in that period of time and then at the end of the year at the AHL I managed to perform well enough to get selected for the home series against Japan. I hadn’t seen the email to let me know that I’d been selected and I got a phone call from Georgia Wilson and she was screaming down the phone that I had done it. I was at work and burst into tears. I trained for a couple of weeks, went to Adelaide and I remember lining up for the national anthem for first game and couldn’t stop crying.”

Now three years later you’re back in the squad but this time as one of the three permanent goalkeepers. You have had to play the patient game haven’t you?

AP: “The three years between debuting and now…if I said that was an easy time of my life I would be absolutely lying. It was extremely difficult. The amount of times I nearly quit hockey I couldn’t count on one hand. I seriously considered giving up and the last time I considered giving up was last year when I had my three month break. It was challenging and having the carrot dangled for three years took a toll on me mentally and physically but I am really proud of myself that I listened to that inner voice that said don’t give up now. I don’t know where it came from but that fight to hold on…I’m glad I had it.”

Can you take us back to the start of where hockey started for you?

AP: “I have two older brothers and was a bit of a tomboy growing up. Whatever my brothers were doing I was doing, so I played basketball, tennis, soccer, karate, BMX…I just followed my brothers wherever they went and tried to be better than them.

I’m from Northam (100km northeast of Perth) and the soccer association closed down which is what we were playing at the time. My brothers then went and played hockey and so I wanted to play hockey. Mum still has the letter I wrote to Northam Hockey Association asking them if I could play the big kids hockey. I didn’t want to play Minkey, I wanted to play with the big kids. They my brothers started going to Perth to play for Curtin Trinity Pirates (now Curtin University), so I started playing there when I was 12 or 13. I made my first state team when I was 13. Mum took me down to the Under 16 schoolgirl trials for experience and I ended up being named as a train on player at the age of 13. I made every state team and played indoor hockey for a while. I got nationally identified when I was 16. I wasn’t originally invited to the futures camp but I played in a local grand final where we won and the national junior coach at the time just happened to be there. Then I went to the Junior World Cup in 2016 and made my Hockeyroos debut in 2017.”

When did you realise goalkeeping was your thing?

AP: “In juniors they rotated – everyone had to have a go in the goals. I was ok at it so I ended up getting stuck as the goalkeeper. Goalkeeping chose me, I didn’t choose goalkeeping. It happened before I came to Perth, so by the time I turned 13.”

A lot of people probably don’t see goalkeeping as a very glamourous or exciting position on the field. What is the best thing about being a goalkeeper?

AP: “There are a lot of misconceptions about goalkeeping and that we don’t do anything. I would burn over a thousand calories during a training session. There’s a misconception that you don’t have to be fit to be a goalkeeper. The best part of goalkeeping for me is the amount of control you have on the game and the amount of influence you can have on it. Everyone looks at the midfield and the strikers but we can make one save and change the game.

The amount of times my communication has prevented something from happening, I think our impact is really underrated. I think the selling point for me is the satisfaction of denying the opposition. They might do this amazing play and string a host of passes together that finishes with a shot, and all you have to do is make a save to deny it and make it amount to nothing. There’s a real satisfaction that you are the person in between them scoring and winning or losing. I really like that part of it.”

Goalkeepers wear a lot of protective gear. Does it still get annoying having to put it on?

AP: “It doesn’t take me too long. Sometimes I’ll zone out and put the kicker on the wrong foot but it doesn’t slow me down too much. I’ll put the gear on, walk a bit and then think that doesn’t feel right, I might have to adjust something. It kind of becomes a part of you and does feel comfortable when it is all on.”

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

AP: “As a kid I was quite unhealthy and overweight, and got bullied at lot at school. I didn’t have a very good primary school experience and coming to Perth was a good thing to get out of that environment. So for me it was overcoming a lot of self doubt because that was ingrained in me as a kid and I was bullied for my appearance. It was a really hard 12 years but we live and we learn and I look at where I am now. I’m not naturally a small person so to get strong and fit and get where I am today has probably been the toughest challenge for me.”

Finally, what do you enjoy doing off the field?

AP: “I’m a believer that once I’m away from hockey, I’m Aleisha Power. I’m defined by my personality. When I’m away from the field I love socialising and I also love learning, so I’m currently studying a Diploma of Business and doing a Bachelor of Science, Nutrition part time. I love exercising, I love cooking, so they are the things you’ll find me doing away from the hockey field.”

Hockey Australia media release

New GB women hockey sponsorship deal hailed by Danson-Bennett

GB hockey team celebrate Olympic gold. Danson-Bennett (15) was part of the Great Britain team that won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio

A new sponsorship deal for British hockey is "fantastic" news for the future of women's sport, says former England captain Alex Danson-Bennett.

The three-year deal with Vitality, a health and lifestyle insurance company, has been described as a "landmark" move by hockey bosses.

The money the firm is paying has not been disclosed, but is said to be "a significant figure".

It provides a huge boost to the sport in what is set to be an Olympic year.

Great Britain's women will look to defend their Olympic title at the rescheduled Tokyo Games, which start on 23 July.

"This announcement is fantastic news for the game of hockey and for women's sport," said Danson-Bennett, who is taking up a 'Performance Champion' role with the company.

"I am delighted to be joining an organisation that seeks to raise the profile of women's sport, and I'm sure this partnership will see many more people get involved in the game, become more active and live healthier lifestyles."

The deal will see the company logo on the shirts of the England and GB women's teams, while there will also be support for the FIH Pro League, including both men's and women's matches, and for the English Women's Hockey League.

BBC Sport

Former FIH Executive Board Member Peter Crane passes away

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has learned that former FIH Executive Board Member Peter Crane (ENG) recently passed away at the age of 85.

"Peter was a well-respected administrator who had a long association with the FIH, holding various committee positions between 1978 and 2005”, said FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, commenting on the sad news. "He was elected to the FIH Council, a forerunner to the FIH Executive Board, in 1985 and remained at the top table of the Federation for 20 years. He regularly featured on the Officials panel at numerous events from Champions Trophy competitions to the Olympic Games, and was awarded the FIH Order of Merit for his relentless, unswerving dedication to the sport that he had a life-long passion for."  

"On behalf of the FIH and the entire global hockey family, I offer my deepest condolences to Peter’s family at this very difficult time."

FIH site

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