Springing to success: The Hockeyroos

Australian national hockey striker Georgie Parker talks small town living, mental health campaigning and the Olympics

georgieparker Since Georgie Parker first played hockey on her eighth birthday her career has gone from strength to strength, culminating in winning a silver medal at the 2014 Hockey World Cup. I was fortunate to speak to her after she played in the 2016 Test matches against Great Britain in the lead up to the Olympics in Rio, which are just a few months away. She even managed to bag herself yet another goal in one of the matches, which culminated in Australia winning 2-1 in the series.

Georgie, who was born in Berri, a small town in Riverland in South Australia, tells me that it was love at first sight: “I fell in love with it straight away, and from then on I played as much as I could.” It wasn’t long before she gained her first cap at the age of 22. Georgie tells me how this felt: “Getting your first cap for your country is a dream come true. It’s a whirlwind of emotions.”

Yet getting to the high standard of playing for your country does not come without sacrifices, as she tells me. “You feel as though you’re missing out on social situations like weddings, engagement parties, milestones etc.” This sort of dedication however is what really does determine one’s fate, “You have to make hard choices though, and those choices are what leads to success in the future.” And Georgie certainly has become successful, with 91 caps for her country despite only being 26 years old.

Australia is renowned for its sporting excellence, dominating the commonwealth games, Olympics and world cups in a multitude of sports, which is impressive when you remember that their population is much smaller than the UK’s. Georgie tells me that sport in Australia is almost second nature and that not even Christmas Day comes before sport, “Families will plan their Christmas day around their game of backyard cricket.” Is it any wonder that they excel year upon year? Athletes in Australia are more like celebrities than sportsmen and sportswomen and “some of the most respected high profile people in the country with thousands looking up to them as role models”, she tells me.

Georgie is a relentless striker for the Hockeyroos with 27 goals to her name, and scoring must be an incredible feeling as she tells me how proud she is when she plays, “I was so proud to wear the body suit the first time, but I am equally as proud every time I wear it.”

She has her sights set on Rio and no doubt will be aiming to add another medal to her collection. This will no doubt mean a great deal more to her after what she describes as the biggest disappointment in her career of not being selected for London 2012. “Being young I didn’t handle myself coming back from injury well enough so never got back to full fitness or form. I know better than that now so with that disappointment comes some life lessons that I can bring in to this Olympic campaign!” It is evident that she has matured enormously since then.

That being said, her and her teammates always find time to have a laugh despite an intense training schedule. Sharing the same name as the Aussie actress gave her the perfect chance to be silly: her Twitter bio reads “Hockeyroo #19, but mostly known for my Gold Logie winning performances in All Saints, A Country Practice and Home & Away.”

Over Christmas the Hockeyroos trained in Christmas fancy dress, in sweltering heat, and Georgie has posted several videos pranking her teammates including moving fellow Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan’s car. “You still have to have fun in what you do whether it’s every now and then have a fancy dress day, or cancel training and go to the beach together, you have to have fun. If you dread going to training every day you’re not going to get the most out of yourself. In the end, it’s a game and games are meant to be fun.” The squad trains 49 weeks of the year, and with the aim of a medal in Rio, the women certainly deserve some light relief!

Fun and games aside, Georgie has a serious side, using her platform as a role model to address the much avoided topic of mental health issues. Depression still has a lot of stigma attached to it, with people still viewing it as a weakness. “As soon as someone speaks up about finding it difficult it can often be shut down very quickly.

“In male dominated sports, such as footy and rugby, I think it would be even more hidden due to the egos that are in the locker room.”

Whether this is true or not, there still isn’t enough support for athletes. Georgie uses her social media to promote the issue of depression and mental health issues, no doubt helping hundreds if not thousands of people across the world.

The next stop is just a few months away as Georgie sets her sights on Rio. The squad of 26 will be cut down to 16 just before the Olympics.

“Hopefully I get to the final 16 that they pick in July,” Parker said.

Based on her current, world-beating form it would be a surprise if she didn’t make the squad, and  we wish her the best of luck in the upcoming months.

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