Olympians give back to our hockey juniors
HOCKEY: When Australian Olympian Gabi Nance was a young hockey star growing up on the Tweed coast she leapt at any opportunity to meet visiting Hockeyroos.
It was those visits that first inspired her to chase a dream of representing her country on the turf, but never in her lifetime did she expect to be on the other side of the equation.
But that was the case at the weekend as Nance was in Grafton offering a junior skills clinic alongside fellow Australian representative Dylan Wotherspoon.
"Kids in the regional centres rarely get the chance to meet their hockey heroes," Nance said.
"I can remember when I was a kid that any time a Hockeyroo would come to town it was a big event.
"I used to learn so much from those clinics so I jumped at the opportunity to give something back."
While Nance was on her own for a clinic last Thursday she ran a joint operation with her Rio counterpart on Saturday that hosted a sea of junior hockey stars.
"I think there is some very promising talent running around the Grafton fields," she said. "I wanted to provide these kids with a new set of skills or drill ideas that they might not have been exposed to before.
"There are some great coaches and programs running in Grafton which give these young stars every opportunity to succeed."
As a young star Nance struggled to break through the Queensland Hockey ranks before taking up an opportunity with South Australia, which propelled her to the national stage.
She said the idea of never giving up on your dreams was a strong message she wanted to convey.
"The first option is never the last option," she said.
"I just think you really need to look into other avenues. The first and second go doesn't matter, it is the third and fourth that shows character."
Nance also praised the efforts of GHA coordinator Joel Ward, who was the driving force behind the Olympians coming to the Grafton hockey complex.
For Ward, it was a simple task that he believes will only further the talents of our local junior ranks.
"It was just incredible to have current Olympic level players coming to visit our regional juniors," he said.
"It was amazing for the kids that attended but there is a real trickle-on effect with this type of event.
"The kids that attended will now go back to their teams with all these new ideas and new drills. It will encourage the kids to approach their coaches, to step up to leadership roles."
Ward said he was most impressed with the effort of Wotherspoon, who flew out of the country back to Netherlands Hoofdklasse first division side Den Bosch.
"To think he was flying back out of the country the next day but still came to Grafton," he said. "He gave up time that he could have spent with family to train our juniors. That is just fantastic for GHA."