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Hooking into hockey

Photo caption: Zali Ward playing for Victoria in Newcastle 2019 where she went on to make the All Australian 16 and Under team. Photo credit: Ali Stansby.

By Caitlin Bewley
(3rd Yr Swinburne Uni)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with 16-year-old Zali Ward following in her mother’s footsteps and taking her first leap into the elite hockey world.
Zali’s athleticism has taken her to new heights after being selected to tour Europe in March 2020 alongside other Victorian hockey players.
It isn’t her first taste either, she’s played in squads and representative sides throughout her hockey career, with the selection into the School Sports Australia Squad being a significant achievement.
But the current milestone in Zali’s sporting career may well be her selection into the Hockey Victoria Women’s development squad as a bottom age player.
The process began at the end of last year when 30 girls were chosen to be a part of the initial trials, this then being cut down to 16 athletes who will jet off to the Netherlands to partake in elite hockey training.
“She takes it in her stride,” mother Brittany said when asked what Zali’s initial reaction to being selected was.
“She’s quietly excited. She knows she has a lot of work to do,” Brittany continued.
Along with the other athletes chosen, Zali will be exposed to high level competition, which will further her experience for state and national selections.
“The next step [after training with the women’s squad] is Jillaroos or the Australian squad,” Brittany said. “[Zali’s] grateful she did get a chance.”
The trip to the Netherlands will allow the athletes to train with the best local competition in the world, on the best training and playing facilities to date.
The travelling team will consist of both Hockey Victoria Emerging Athletes, which Zali is in, and Victorian Institute of Sport athletes.
“You have to have certain characteristics for the Victorian Institute of Sport to take you on,” Brittany said. “They are developing amazing people.”
Brittany told the Moorabool News Zali was invited to train with the VIS team over the Christmas break, saying that it showed her “what it was like to be a professional athlete.”
When asked what Zali’s year ahead in hockey may look like, her roster wasn’t shy of a few commutes halfway across the world.
“Zali has trials for the national team this month which plays in Tasmania in April, the Europe tour in March, and, if all goes to plan, she’ll be heading to South Africa in June for the U/16 School Sports Australia team,” Brittany said.
“All while studying Year 11 at Bacchus Marsh Grammar,” she continued. “Who have been amazing in accommodating Zali and her hockey. They run an elite sports program at the school.”
Zali’s Europe tour commences March 6 for two weeks, playing six games over a 12-day period and gaining lifelong knowledge that she will be able to incorporate into her already elite hockey game.

*** Zali Ward was announced in the 2020 Aus Champs U18 Vic Girls State Team on Friday 14 February, playing in Tasmania 16-24 April.