Ashleigh Nelson

Australian Hockey Player and Motivational Speaker

Hockeyroos Bound into Rabobank Hockey World Cup Final

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014

Hockeyroos Bound into Rabobank Hockey World Cup Final

The World Cup is a very complicated tournament – six games, seven if you make it to the final – and maybe if you lose one game you’re out, even if you’re the best.      – Pele-

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It only seemed fitting to quote soccer great Pele with the arrival of the Soccer World Cup. But before Australia focuses on what’s happening in the soccer, it is important to realise that Australia has the opportunity to take out a Hockey World Cup with the Hockeyroos progressing through to the final.

It has been a hard slog with all six game being difficult to win. It has been so close that we have actually only won most games by one goal (no doubt stressing our poor supporters and coaching staff). Going into the tournament we were probably expected to be finals contenders but as Pele states even one slip can result in a champion team losing a World Cup which if given attention could have been a worrying thought. Although we have not been as clinical as we would have liked in front of goals we have remained focused and accrued enough points to play in the semi final vs USA.

USA was an unnerving opponent in some respects. Although they currently sit 10th in the world they had progressed through this tournament beating higher ranked teams including worthy adversaries Germany and England, while drawing with world number 2 Argentina. It was evident USA were riding high on confidence and with nothing to lose they were throwing everything they had at progressing to the gold medal match, which can be difficult to match up against.

If spectators thought the round games had been close, the semi final proved to push the limits of anxiety. By the end of the game, grey hairs were clearly visible on most of the spectators head glistening in the sun amongst the sea of yellow.

I felt we had most of the control for 60 minutes of the game, holding a 2-1 lead with two minutes to go. Unfortunately due to some ordinary defensive work in our attacking 25 we allowed USA to breakaway resulting in a goal. The goal was contentious with the ball being lifted into the shoulder of Madonna Blyth and then deflecting into the goal. Given the time remaining on the clock and the reaction of the players “complaining” about the dangerous nature of the ball it was surprising that it was not reviewed by the 3rd umpire. As we had lost our ability to refer the goal to the 3rd umpire we were relying on the umpire to make her own referral which unfortunatley did not happen.

There is no doubt umpires have a difficult job and are not be able to make the right calls all of the time especially in the heat of the moment. This is why appropriate use of the 3rd umpire is so imperative. Utilising available technology should not be frowned upon especially when it comes to potential tournament changing calls and in this instance it was something that could have been better utilised. As I said umpiring is a hard job something that I would find difficult to do, but as the game progresses with rule changes and speed of the game increases use of technology in this area is essential.

At the end of the day the goal stood and we were locked at a 2 -2 draw which meant one on ones. To the girls credit their ability to refocus after feeling like we had been stripped of a berth in the gold medal match to take their one on one’s was amazing. Special mention must be given to goal keeper Rach Lynch who was outstanding and made our life easier with her clean tackles to deny many of the American’s attempts at goal. Rach has worked so hard to ensure this part of her game is exemplary and such commitment paid dividends when she was put into the spotlight and came out  on top.

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Much to our relief we have progressed to the World Cup final, a goal which we set and committed to two years ago post Olympics. It is now time to finish off this dream run but of course it will not be easy with Holland standing in our way. We are happy to take the underdog title with the pressure of being number 1 and home crowd expectations hopefully resting heavy on the shoulders of Holland. They have been in many finals before and are number 1 for good reason, however I have full confidence that if we play to our potential we can take home a gold medal.

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Thank you for those that have supported us not only during the tournament but over this 2 year period when we first committed to making a change to the Hockeyroos culture for the better. I hope that it will be a final to remember.

Ashleigh Nelson

#8 The Hockeyroos

Many thanks to Grant Treeby for his photos – http://www.treebyimages.com.au

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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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