Anna Flanagan was virtually plucked from school to play for the Hockeyroos. The call-up for the national team came while she was in class at Radford College in 2010.
Anna was 17 years of age at the time. Three years later she was named the World Young Player of the Year. She was also developing a profile which established her as one of the most marketable sportswomen in Australia.
As she points out now, it was something she worked hard to build.
She went on to play 171 tests for the Hockeyroos, scoring 34 goals, winning gold at two Commonwealth Games, and had an Olympic appearance.
Anna’s omission from the team in the lead up to the Rio Olympics was a low point for her. But testament to her resilience, she is now back playing hockey where it all started – in Canberra, for the Chill in the revamped Hockey One competition.
“I think this new format is great for the sport,” says Anna, “We are getting great crowds and I’m really enjoying it.”
With the drive to get back into the Hockeyroos diminishing, the announcement that she had retired from international hockey came as no surprise. “That’s done and dusted. I don’t have a desire to be a full-time athlete again,” says Anna.
If anything, playing for Canberra again has rekindled her love for the sport.
“I have found a happy medium,” admits Anna. “I don’t think I’m as good as I was a couple of years ago, I just don’t have that fitness level.” Part of that enjoyment has been an understanding of the holistic benefits of hockey after spending time coaching in regional areas. This is where Anna has found others who love hockey and it is a significant part of their lives.
Anna’s presence in the Canberra Chill is one of the reasons why the team is in the mix for a place in the finals. This weekend’s games against Adelaide, in Adelaide, will determine whether Canberra makes it through to the playoffs in the competition’s inaugural season.
In many ways, it has been a happy homecoming. But it hasn’t been easy. Anna has been working in PR in Sydney while playing for the Chill.
“I drive from Sydney to Canberra for training then drive back at least once a week, sometimes twice.” But the love of the Chill remains strong.
She played for NSW last year, but in the back of her mind was a desire to return to Canberra.
“I’ve been thinking about it all year. I was trying to work it out logistically. I wanted to play for Canberra but I wasn’t sure if it would work out.”
In the end, she made it work, not only playing but taking on a leadership role with the team.
As for the future? Anna says, “I’d love to do it again next year; as long as my body holds up”.
No doubt this is music to the ears of those involved with the Canberra Chill and Hockey One.