As young 12 and 13 year olds, Tamworth-produced Olympic Kookaburra/Hockeyroo hockey representatives Michael York, Matthew Smith, Kim Small and Kate Jenner probably never dreamed that, down the track, they’d be pulling on the green and gold for their country.
All four were nurtured to the peak of their career by Tamworth Hockey Association.
And just as naïve though perhaps taking their first step into an elite career are Manilla’s Olivia Coombes (13) and Hallsville’s Molly Collett (12) who were recently named in the 2021 Hockey NSW Under 15 Girls’ Field Squad. Also making the 70-member squad were Tamworth’s Makenna Barnett-Suey, Mackenzie Scott and Alyvia Wilson.
Molly, a Year 7 student at Oxley High School in Tamworth and Olivia (Year 8 at Calrossy, Tamworth) were selected for the squad following several group training sessions in Tamworth. They’ll attend intensive training sessions each week under the eyes of Greg Doolan and Helen Willis before heading to Moorebank in Sydney in December and February for development weekends and a narrowing down process, according to Molly’s mum, Jodie Smith.
“From what we understand, they’ll be narrowed down into two teams at Moorebank – a state team and a Blues’ team. Those two teams will go to Bathurst from 9th to 15th April next year to contest the Under 15 Boys and Girls Championships,” Jodie said.
Molly and Olivia though have hockey running through their veins – mums (Jodie Smith and Emma Coombes respectively) were regional hockey representatives themselves, both enjoying their hockey careers with the South United Hockey Club in Tamworth. And both girls started their hockey career as members of Tamworth Tadpoles (specifically aimed at 3, 4 and 5 year olds) and Minkey (6-9 years) before joining the junior ranks.
Molly, who plays inner or centre-half, is a member of Oxley’s TAP (Talented Athletes’ Program) where she focuses on her hockey training while Olivia, who enjoys running with the forwards, is a member of Tamworth’s Olympians Club, according to her mum Emma.
“Tamworth Hockey Association does so much for the young players, helping the kids pursue their sport in so many ways. Tamworth has produced a lot of very good players – even four Olympians,” Emma said.
Tamworth Hockey has around 1200 members, boasting one of the largestsports in the city. And it has produced four Olympic representatives in Michael York (silver medal at Barcelona in 1992 and bronze at both Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney 2000), Matthew Smith (bronze medal at Atlanta in 1996), Kim Small (gold medal at Seoul in 1988) and in recent years, Kate Jenner who helped Australia to gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Molly and Olivia though have interests away from the clacking of their hockey sticks. Molly is a keen horse rider, and can boast representing in equine circles throughout the region, while Olivia’s main outside interests are swimming as a member of Manilla Swimming Club, and music where she’s currently learning to play both piano and guitar.
Photo: Olivia Coombes (left) and Molly Collett, both selected in the 2021 Hockey NSW Under 15 Girls’ Field Squad.