Ashleigh Nelson

Australian Hockey Player and Motivational Speaker

150 Games Later : Playing a Milestone Match

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014

150 Games Later : Playing a Milestone Match

–  Life Isn’t A Matter Of Milestones, But Of Moments –

Today I reached the 150 game milestone for my career with the Hockeyroos. My brother requested I hold my stick aloft mimicking cricket great Ricky Ponting but much to his disappointment I failed on that front…perhaps at 200 games??

It has been a humbling and enjoyable occasion however it isn’t reaching the milestone that brings me most joy but rather reflecting on the moments throughout the 150 games.  Moments that were utterly entertaining right through to the difficult situations and lessons learnt.

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Starting in 2007 I have been a member of the Hockeyroos going on 7 years, so just what makes up my top moments and memories?

1. Debut Game: Australia vs Japan – Adelaide, 2007. Despite many thinking the call up to play for Australia would be exciting, it actually was a difficult moment. The unexpected phone call came while travelling to a club teammates funeral whose loyalty and commitment I strongly admired.  I like believe that perhaps she was with me at that point in time and glad that she was part of my debut experience. Playing in front of a home crowd with my Mum and Godmother hiding amongst the number after telling them not to come as I would just be ‘riding the pine’ was daunting. After 5 minutes I was exhausted, probably from the anxiety of playing along side Hockeyroos legends Nikki Hudson, Angie Skirving etc. It is funny that my 150th game would be against the same team I debuted against 7 years later with a few of the same teammates still lingering around….. a little slower but definitely smarter :)

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2. The Hard Yards: This wasn’t just a moment but rather an arduous period of time. After making my debut it soon became clear that playing one game for Australia doesn’t mean you have the right to continue to play. (Sometimes a surprise for Gen Y according to many baby boomer and Gen X columnists).  I had just a mere taste of what it was like to be a Hockeyroo and fortunately for me this was a healthy addiction leaving me wanting more. Little did I know that 2 years down that track I would still be vying for selection for that next game. Countless non selections, small group sessions and individual running drills did not make this an enjoyable experience given my general hate towards running. I remember many times being so tired and frustrated that I would cry probably because I had run out of my favourite cereal. Many a time my Mum said that I could walk away proud that I had achieved the goal of playing for Australia, and she was right it would have been fine. But looking back I am proud I persisted and graduated from what I liken to a hockey apprenticeship. The rewards have far outweighed the 2 year hardship and expenses incurred from buying copious amounts of boxes of tissues and comfort ice-cream.

3.  Monkey off the back: After finally getting my next game for Australia I was determined to actually score a goal. Being a striker, scoring goals is apparenlty somewhat important if not essential as far as the job criteria goes. It wasn’t the most skilful goal but definitely fit the bill of being in the right place at the right time – a motto I play be especially being a striker. I left the fancy work up to talented Casey Eastham who crossed a back stick ball through the circle meeting my diving stick and sailing past a chinese defender, goal keeper and team mate Meagan Rivers who felt it necessary to piggy back me while making the deflection. The monkey was off the back – I had scored my first goal, and the pure elation was a feeling I will never forget. I would love to be a flashy player but my strength lies in well times leads and getting into goal scoring positions and I have had to learn to acknowledge this and use it to great advantage. And now sitting at 61 goals in 150 games  I think it has been a wise decision.

Click here for the you tube video for my first goal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jebk4aa8zg

4. Gold medal vocals: I would love to have a World Cup and Olympic medal under my belt but it hasn’t happened. I have however been fortunate enough to win a Commonwealth Games Gold which although it isn’t a world class event I am still proud of given we were playing in 40 degree heat with a player down due to Em Hurtz dislocating her shoulder.  I remember very little about the moment I realised we had won (Nic Arrold’s final penalty stroke) but I do remember standing on the podium singing the national anthem with Anna Flanagan’s voice resonating in my ear drums – and not for a good reason. Lets just say lucky she is a better hockey player than a vocalist. It was a major tournament win and served as a motivator to continue to strive for further major international tournament wins.

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5. Adapt and survive: After years of regular selection it came as a rude shock not to be selected to represent Australia at the Champions Trophy Challenge. At the time I was disappointed but most all embarrassed that I had not been selected ahead of my younger counterparts. At this moment I had a choice  to throw in the towel and be content with playing 100 games for Australia or  accept the challenge and look to be better. After growing up with two older brothers a competitive nature was essential and this put me in good stead for choosing option b. After 2 months off travelling and really deciding if I was committed to making the required changes to get back in the team I returned to the training environment. I threw everything I had at the program – cutting back at work, prioritising hockey and recovery and aiming to improve my personal bests. Apparently the old saying – hard work pays off – has some merit to it and now I am enjoying the fruits of my labour playing some of the best and most enjoyable hockey of my career. I don’t begrudge the coaching staff who didn’t select me or the girls who toured instead of me, it was what I needed to improve as an individual and this competitive environment is what we need to keep moving up the world ranking.

These are just a few moments on the way to the milestone and I hope there are plenty more to come with the current Hockeyroos team who I have so much respect for.

On a final note a quick but heartfelt thank you to the most special people my Mum (Robyn), Dad (Robert), Brothers (Jared & Brendyn), Sister in laws (Tenielle & Tina), Boyfriend (Aaron), people of my hometown Wagin and dear friends – at some point in time I have relied on you to help me along the way, words can’t explain how grateful and humbled I am by your willingness.

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Keep your eye on my next post over the next few days to get to know other Hockeyroos a little better while at the World Cup!

Thanks

Ashleigh xx

#8 Hockeyroos

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