It would be wrong to describe them as the early season surprise packets, but Adelaide Fire’s Women’s Team has taken all before them in the opening fortnight.
We caught up with former Hockeyroo and Adelaide Fire midfielder Gabi Nance about the team’s early surge and the excitement building ahead their first home game of the season this Sunday against Brisbane Blaze in what has been tagged the ‘inferno’ rivalry.
Hi Gabi. Thanks for taking some time out ahead of your big game against Brisbane Blaze on Sunday. After playing two away games, you’re at home for the first time this weekend. What’s the buzz been like at training this week?
GN: “I think the trainings we’ve had this week have been really relaxed. We’re heading into our first home game with 10 points on the board, so that already makes us feel good for Sunday. But the buzz around Hockey SA has been great and I think the girls are very keen and even a little disappointed we have to wait until Sunday.
You obviously would have had lofty expectations at the start of the season, but did you envisage you would be sitting on top after two rounds?
GN: “Honestly we weren’t really sure how we were going to go. All of the teams are super strong and each week it changes, so it was hard to know what to expect. As we went through preparing for the season, I was pretty confident we were going to do well, so I’m stoked to be sitting on top.”
The Adelaide Fire girls have been playing some great hockey. To beat the Tassie Tigers 4-0 down there last weekend is one thing, but all the girls look like they’re really enjoying their hockey and it’s showing on the pitch. How have you seen it?
GN: “South Australian hockey has always shown a very team-based brand of hockey, and I think we’ve carried that into the new league. Everyone is really excited and up and about and it’s so nice to see so many girls from so many different local clubs come together and put the performance out on the park each week.”
What has it been like for you to play in the first two rounds of the Sultana Bran Hockey One League and what have been your impressions so far?
GN: “I absolutely love it, particularly travelling to different states and seeing the hype around it all. I’m really impressed with how Hockey One has been run so far. I think the next five years are going to be so crucial and that we’ve already made leaps and bounds for hockey. It’s really exciting.”
Both Adelaide Fire and Brisbane Blaze have players missing this weekend due to Hockeyroos commitments. What are you expecting from Brisbane this week?
GN: “Every round is dangerous, and I think with the potential extra point if you do score a field goal, no lead is safe. Brisbane, or Queensland, have historically been a really strong side and we’re looking forward to the challenge. I think we’re just going to focus on ourselves and try to get another five points on the board.”
With the rule change which sees teams receive an extra one on one shootout opportunity from a field goal, has that changed the way you train or try to score?
GN: “I think that we’ve had a few shootout goals now, and we’ve missed a couple, so we’ve started to incorporate more one-on-ones under fatigue at training. I think having the opportunity to score a field goal off a short corner, so bringing it outside the five is something we’ve been working on. Having that extra shootout and having it across the board so everyone can do it in the team is a good challenge for us. Not everyone loves the one-on-one but everyone has been stepping up, so it has been good.”
What would you say to the local community in Adelaide, both hockey lovers and general sport fans, to encourage them to come out and get behind you, especially with your success so far?
GN: “I think for all the fans of the Adelaide Fire, both men and women, it’s a great opportunity to showcase hockey at its highest level in Australia. Hockey SA have always put on a really good match day experience and the vibe there has always been great, so I would encourage everyone to come down and watch the men and women. There are other great things too, not just the two games being played. We have the Heineken Hill, so you can grab a couple of beers and that’s always an incentive to watch a bit of hockey!”
This weekend could almost be dubbed the ‘Inferno Rivalry’, with the Fire taking on the Blaze. Are you ready for the heat?
GN: “I think it’s whoever is coming in more hot (laughs)! We have a media commitment tomorrow morning at the fire station, so we’re taking this very seriously.”
Without getting ahead of yourself, if you win on Sunday, are you confident that you can continue to ride the wave and secure a spot in the top four?
GN: “It’s hard to not get ahead of yourself week to week, but if we get a win this weekend, it’s just building our confidence and brand of hockey. I think we have every chance of being in the finals, we just have to keep putting a good performance out each week on the park and training hard.”