By Adam Clifford
A fairytale can be defined as a genre of magical story, where a brave and resourceful hero or heroine goes through testing adventures to eventual good fortune.
Fairytales can follow a somewhat predictable pattern, often beginning with a moral lesson.
Thereafter the main character will encounter an obstacle, before overcoming this challenge to have a happily ever after ending.
By that definition Tassie Tigers defender Kiah Williams played out her own fairytale Hockey One League debut on Saturday night, with a strong performance against the Perth Thundersticks in front of her Perth-based family and friends.
The Process Worker with Rio Tinto in Bell Bay, Tasmania had a unique passage to the national stage, overcoming the tyranny of distance and significant step up in competition to fulfill a long-held ambition.
After missing selection for the Tigers opening three matches, the twenty-five-year-old admits self-doubt had started to creep into her thoughts as the commitment to haul from Launceston to Hobart for trainings, on top of her shift work, began to take their toll.
“I found it mentally quite hard to be sitting in the stands for the first few rounds of Hockey One, with not being selected but still putting in as much travel as I could to go to trainings,” Williams reveals.
On one occasion, Williams admits she made the trip down for a training session that ended up being a video review of the side’s 0-2 loss to the Adelaide Fire and spent just fifteen minutes on the balls.
“I’ve travelled a return trip of seven hours each time I’ve needed to go down to Hobart for training, due to extensive roadworks, which equates to many thousands of kilometres so far,” Williams revealed.
“I’ve had to sacrifice sleep with late nights and early morning shifts for work and travelling down the day after night shift with minimal sleep too, while also sacrificing other work shifts and family events.”
While Williams’ personal sacrifices to achieve her dream of playing in Australia’s elite competition are massive, the achievement is compounded by the fact that she plays in a regional club competition, separate from her Tigers teammates were are concentrated in Hobart’s Premier League.
The midfielder-defender plies her trade with South Launceston Suns in the Greater Northern League (GNL), after moving to the far North-West of Tasmania back in 2019 to take up a position as an Abalone Hatchery Manager.
“The step up from GNL to Hockey One has been undeniably substantial,” the former Western Australian underage representative concedes.
“I haven’t played a high level of hockey since I left Perth, so it’s been so good to be a part of Hockey One to challenge myself again and be surrounded by such a great bunch of girls.”
Williams credits the support of her boyfriend Brad Buchanan and his mother Amanda, who each accompanied Williams on various trips to Hobart to share the driving and maintain her motivation.
“It’s been great to have the support from my family, especially my parents back in WA, because at times I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue pushing myself because of the huge overall commitment but they’ve all helped me along the way so much and been hugely supportive.”
It was fitting that Brad and Amanda drove from Launceston to Hobart last Friday night in order to catch the only direct flight out of Tasmania to ensure they were there firsthand at the Perth Hockey Stadium to witness Williams’ debut, sitting alongside her mother, father and brother in the stands.
Now every fairytale also is scripted with a charismatic, loveable character that inevitably drops a pearl of wisdom for the main character and for Williams, that role was played perfectly by her father.
“My dad sent me a message before the season, it read: One day you won’t be able to play this level, as you will get too old, too sore, and too slow. Give it a red-hot crack before this window of opportunity disappears.”
“Being honest, I think this was probably the driving force behind my final decision to go for it… so thanks dad!”
And as for the happy ending, Williams recalls fondly receiving phone call from Tigers coach Luke Doerner that she would make her long awaited debut and she was elated to advise her family.
“It was almost a sigh of relief initially, that all the travel and late nights had finally paid off, but then knowing it was the Perth game I was debuting in just made it all the more sweeter as my immediate family were able to be there to watch.”
“I called my parents straight away to let them know I’d be coming over and they were over the moon.”
The match itself saw the Thundersticks walk away with a 3-0 win, but Williams impressed is a strong showing in defence alongside defensive teammate Jillian Wolgemuth and appeared comfortable at Hockey One level.
“Playing in my debut was so exciting. I think I stepped up to where I needed to be but obviously not playing a Hockey One game with the team before, there were a few things I had to figure out as I went, such as communication and feedback from the girls and coaching team.”
“I knew it was going to be a fast- paced game with a lot of skill involved so I just had to flick the GNL switch off and the H1 switch on.”
“I’ve watched the game replay back now since returning to Launceston and have definitely noticed a few components of my game that I can work on, so I will focus on that in the coming weeks if I’m given the opportunity.”
So, what’s the moral of this particular fairytale story?
“I think if you’re on the fence about whether or not to have a crack at Hockey One, then definitely think about it because it was such an amazing experience.”
“Any athlete knows that there will be knock backs in your career, whether it be at junior or senior level, but my advice would be to understand how to manage that, while trying to stay positive for yourself and your team-mates.”