Neumann’s double act

One week she was umpiring Olympic qualifying games overseas – the next she was tackling some of Australia’s top players.

Such is the life of hockey all-rounder Aleisha Neumann.

The 30-year-old has been juggling international umpiring commitments with playing for Brisbane Blaze in the inaugural Sultana Bran Hockey One League.

Neumann umpired at six Australian Hockey League tournaments but had never played at national league level.

That was until Brisbane selectors named the former Australian Country representative in their foundation squad.

“I had accepted that to further my umpiring career I had to forgo playing representative hockey at any level for any state,” Neumann explains.

“I did not expect selection (for Blaze). I was unconvinced that I would be in the final 20, so approached training with no expectations and no pressure and instead focused on improving my fitness and skills.”

Neumann made her Sultana Bran Hockey One debut against Adelaide Fire in Round 3 and has played in all four of Blaze’s victories this campaign.

“I was a little nervous to debut as a player and was excited to get the opportunity,” she says.

“Of course, winning makes every experience more pleasant but we have a really close group with the Blaze who all got around the debutants for that round to make us feel comfortable and confident to do the job needed.”

Neumann, who will umpire at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, believes playing high-level hockey improves her umpiring, and vice versa.

“Knowing what players are wanting to do helps as an umpire to be proactive in movement to be in position ahead of time, while knowing the rules and intricacies of umpiring certainly helps in pressure situations as a player,” she says.

Neumann believes Brisbane Blaze’s chances of winning the first women’s Sultana Bran Hockey One crown are “very high”.

“We have a great group of Queensland-based players who are topped up with five Hockeyroos, creating an awesome team environment and atmosphere,” she said.

“There is competition every week for the final 14 places on game day which is mirrored in the team performance on the field.”

By Lee Oliver

Photo by Andrew Blanchard