Local junior, Rosie Malone, has recently returned from a tour of South Africa where she and her Australian U16 Schoolgirls teammates played a three-test series against the SA National U18 team. The Australian boys team was also on tour, which was the first time the boys and girls teams had toured together.
The Aussie teams were selected at the 2013 U16 Schools nationals, and the girls team included three U15’s (with a fourth scraping in weeks before the tour). There was no opportunity to train together in Australia, but once in Capetown they settled in with practice matches against some regional teams, and plenty of ‘selfie’ opportunities for Rosie posing with locals up on Table Mountain, with penguins on Robben Island and as self-appointed head ‘spotter’ on the whale-watch cruise.
After a few days in a Zulu camp and chasing elephants in Hluhluwe Game Reserve, the teams finally came to the business end of the tour. School hockey is remarkably big in South Africa and our players had been warned things were not going to be easy. The Test series had been timed to coincide with the SA School Sport U16 titles, which meant there were massive crowds attending the chilly, evening Test matches. There was a real carnival atmosphere at the University of KZN in Pietermaritzburg with a team of professional commentators calling the game, food and entertainment stalls and of course the moving walkout and national anthems.
The SA girls’ team came out firing and had a few stand-out players, but the Aussie girls simply had too much depth and despite the home team having a year or two age advantage, our girls dominated, coming away with 4-0 win. The boys had a much closer tussle, and whilst they too came away with a win, it was only by one goal.
There was a change of venue for the second Test (Kearsney College, Hillcrest), and with it came a change in tempo. The South Africans came out firing and our girls had to step up a gear to get away with a 3-2 win, whilst in the boys match a highly controversial ‘after-the-whistle’ corner awarded to the home side saw them snatch victory and even the slate.
Despite the girls Test result having been decided, the ‘Springboks’ came out playing for pride and hoping to avoid a whitewash. Our girls were equally determined, however, to put a decisive stamp on the whole event and refused to be caught napping; bringing home a 5-1 victory. The boys match was packed with excitement and after 90 hard-fought minutes the Aussie boys too, finally came away Test winners by one goal.
Rosie is again at the U16 Schoolgirls Nationals this week down in Adelaide, co-captaining the Qld team. They trumped NSW 7-0 in the first round match, but now will face them in the final on Saturday.
“NSW has beaten us in the finals both years I’ve been in this team and I’m sick of it!” said Rosie.
“We’ve got a great team and we have really dominated every match. Our goal difference is 27, which is miles ahead of everyone else and our keepers have hardly touched the ball – but anything can happen in a final and we just have to get better at capitalising on our scoring opportunities.”