Canadian women's field hockey team looking to turn heads on Gold Coast - InfoNews

Current Conditions

7.2°C

Canadian women's field hockey team looking to turn heads on Gold Coast

April 03, 2018 - 10:32 AM

GOLD COAST, Australia - The Canadian women's field hockey team arrives at the Commonwealth Games on a high, looking to do some damage on the Gold Coast.

And unlike the Pan American Games, which serve as the region's primary Olympic qualifier, they can play relatively stress-free.

"With the Commonwealth Games, we're really itching to win a medal," said Canadian captain Kate Wright. "I think we can do great things. The pressure's kind of off but it gives us an opportunity to just play our game."

That approach is more attack-minded under interim coach Giles Bonnet, a South African.

The Canadian women arrive at the games on a roll after going undefeated in a series against No. 15 Chile before defeating the seventh-ranked Americans twice in a four-game series (2-1-1) in California. It had been 18 years since Canada's last win over the U.S.

"A great start to the year for us," said Wright.

Canada, which missed out last spring on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, is 4-1-4 this year heading into the games.

Currently ranked 21st in the world and seventh best in the Commonwealth, Canada is in a pool with No. 4 New Zealand, No. 5 Australia, No. 18 Scotland and No. 30 Ghana in the 10-team competition which runs April 5-14 at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre.

The other pool features No. 2 England, No. 10 India, No. 14 South Africa, No. 22 Malaysia and No. 26 Wales.

The top two teams from each pool advance to the semifinals with the others playing in the classification round to decide fifth through 10th.

"For us coming in ranked seventh, it puts us in a little bit of a disadvantage just within our pool play, but we're excited," said Wright, who also played in the 2010 and '14 games. "We haven't played the Commonwealth teams in a while ... I think a lot of teams don't really know what to expect from us, because we don't match up quite regularly like we do with the Pan American teams per se.

"So we're really excited to go in with guns blazing and take that first opportunity against Australia and really just play the way we want to play. I have a couple of friends on that (Australia) team and I think they're a bit nervous maybe because they haven't seen us play in a while, so we're really using that to our advantage."

Australia is three-time defending champion at the games and has won four of the five Commonwealth competitions. The Canadian women were eighth in 2014, sixth in 2010, eighth in 2006 and seventh in 2002.

"We know the competition is tough but we wouldn't have it any other way," said Wright. "We want to play the best teams in the world and measure up against them."

While the 28-year-old Wright is the only veteran remaining from the 2010 Commonwealth Games with 170-plus caps — a Canadian women's record — there is an experienced core group on the team.

"That's definitely played into our game now," she said. "Field hockey is such an experience game so getting those caps and keeping the same team together is really important."

"We're really excited to see where we fit ... We're hoping the time is now for us," she added.

Wright, whose husband Philip also represented Canada in field hockey, comes from a sports family.

Her mother Diane Gillis (nee Coffey) was a Canadian international long jumper. Father Mike Gillis played 246 NHL games for Colorado and Boston before coaching the Queen's University team, becoming a player agent and then running the Vancouver Canucks as GM and president of hockey operations from 2008 to 2014.

Both parents will be in Australia to take in the games.

Philip Wright is now retired from field hockey and after completing an MBA with a specialization in sports business at the University of Oregon, is working at EA Sports. He is part of the marketing management team behind the hit FIFA soccer video game franchise.

Kate Wright led the family charge to the West Coast, leaving Kingston, Ont., to join the national team at 17. She finished Grade 12 by correspondence and then headed to Boston College before switching to the University of Melbourne and finally UBC to be closer to the national team.

Known for her durability as a player, Wright led the Canadians to a bronze medal on home soil at the 2015 Pan American Games and fourth place at the 2011 games in Guadalajara.

"I have two speeds — zero or 100," she said. "Just managing how I take care of my body is pretty important. Being one of the older athletes, you have to take care of yourself a little more."

Olympic qualification will start in June in Mexico via the ongoing World League, with the 2019 Pan American Games also offering a road to Tokyo.

Now focusing on field hockey full-time, Wright gets some support as a carded athlete — although some of that goes back to help the program. She also has a fundraising page to help make up for lost government funding (https://chimp.net/groups/kate-wright-gillis-trek-to-tokyo-2020).

"We're trying to get ahead of that now," Wright said of the money crunch. "As you can imagine, it's pretty difficult to live on a carding cheque in Vancouver. But we're hoping there are some new opportunities coming up in our future where our program can hopefully move forward and reapply for Own The Podium funding and hopefully find some other sources of income."

Turning heads Down Under would help the cause.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

  • Popular vernon News
  • Comments
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile