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Goalie with goals

Oct 1, 2019 | Features

Fourteen-year-old Sam Lapsley from Maleny has made five Queensland hockey teams for the last three years running and is working towards a place in an Australian team – it’s safe to say hockey is his passion. 

by Jacqui Hensel   

Hockey is one of Australia’s most successful team sports at the Olympics, and Sam Lapsley was inspired to take up the game at just seven by his mum Fiona, who plays hockey herself in the social league. Since then he has discovered he is a goalkeeper at heart.

The 2016 Club Final with Sam at the ready in goal

“Being goalie means you have the best view of the game. So you don’t just stop goals, you are also directing the other players,” Sam says. “I enjoy the responsibility of my position and  the teammates I have in each squad I play for. I think hockey has made me a more confident person.”

The goalkeeper must be agile and quick to stop balls that can be travelling over 100km/h. In some top level games the ball has been clocked at 180km/h – but this doesn’t phase Sam, who seems to live and breathe the game. 

“Hockey is a second family to me. My family and I spend every Saturday at hockey. For me, I like knowing that I can go to anyone there for help or advice. There is a lot of trust and support for me there.”

It also appears to be a family affair. “Both my brother and I umpire lower grade games, then I play for my team, and volunteer in the canteen. My brother and I play a late game for the men’s team, where I am learning a lot,” Sam explains.

“The shots are harder and faster and take more skill. It’s a way of developing my game further and more of a challenge for me,” Sam says thoughtfully.

Hockey is an ancient game that was played in the past by several civilisations such as the Egyptians and Aztecs, but the modern version of hockey was developed at schools like Eton in England, making its first appearance at the Olympics in 1908. Women’s hockey, although played since 1927, only made its Olympic debut in 1980 at Moscow.

Hockey has given Sam and his family the chance to see Australia, which he enjoys. As travelling for hockey has become the family holiday, mum Fiona uses it as an excuse to see things that are off the beaten track. 

Sam remembers visiting the Old Fremantle Gaol in Western Australia as a particular highlight of these trips.

“I have been to every state in Australia except Victoria and the Northern Territory,” Sam says proudly. 

“When we go to different tournaments we usually get a couple of days where we can go and see what’s there, which is pretty good.

The Queensland Gold 2019 U15 boys, with Sam in the middle row – Narellan NSW

“We drove down to Goulbourn one year and it was a massive trip. We saw lots of the big things, like the Big Ram. Mum always tries to get something more out of the trips,” smiles Sam, “there are always things to see and do.” 

Playing for the Nambour Blue Demons in the Junior One Division, Sam is kept busy with training and team commitments.

“I go to training with my team twice a week, plus I have a High Performance goalkeeper training session at Ballinger Park one day a week. 

“I’ve been squad training for the Sunshine Coast under 15s team that is competing at Warwick during October. And I do a personal training session once a week with Kurt Pennington from KFP Fitness,” says Sam.

This busy young man has also attended training sessions with the Queensland Blades hockey team.

Making this squad means an increase in intensity for Sam as he will be one of the younger members and will be playing a much more advanced and structured game, as the umpiring and rules are tightened up in this age group. Sam sees it as another chance to step up to a challenge.

“It will be great to play at this level. I have a lot to learn yet,” Sam says humbly. 

Next year Sam will have an opportunity to qualify for an Australian team if he makes the under 16s school boy side. He is also aiming to be a part of the under 18s Queensland team in 2020, which will offer an opportunity at an Australian team placing. Both opportunities will lead to international competitions and yet another step up for Sam. 

If Sam is placed in an Australian side, the International Hockey FIH Pro League will be held in Auckland and Christchurch in January 2020. The games run until ANZAC Day with international men’s and women’s teams taking part.

As Australia has a strong history of success in international hockey, not only will Sam need to work hard to make it into the Australian side, but his grit and quiet determination will stand him in good stead.

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