Hi, this is Samantha Heyward (Sammy)! I’m 16 years old and writing this from the Auckland Airport in New Zealand as I wait with the rest of the New Zealand Junior women’s team to board our plane for Dubai and then to Barcelona. That would be a total of 24 hours on a plane to get to the World Roller Games in Barcelona and definitely the downside of playing hockey way down under in New Zealand.
I started playing inline hockey when I was nine years old after following my older brother into the sport. I live in Levin, which is a medium-sized town about a three hour return trip from Wellington (our capital city). In New Zealand, rugby is the national sport (I mean obsession) and inline hockey and ice hockey are very much a minority sport. At first it was hard to find a team in my age range, so I played for a few years in an under 12s or 14s level. As I was quite small for my age anyway, it was hard to learn the game and keep up with the older players, but I was hooked from day one and there was no going back to ballet lessons after trying hockey.
I now play for the Capital Penguins Inline Hockey club U16 team, and U19 mixed team and senior women’s team. It’s a three hour commute to training after school every Tuesday. I am usually the only girl playing on the U16 team as our amazing goalie and fellow girl team mate, Lilly Forbes, lives in Christchurch and plays for us for important tournaments only. I get a lot of game time as our team is small and I love that.
I also coach the Levin Thunder U10 team as my way of giving back to the sport I love. Last year I was selected for the NZ Junior women’s team (this is U18 level) to play at the World Championships in Asiago, Italy and this year I was selected again to play at the World Roller games in Barcelona. I was also honoured to be named assistant captain of the team this year.
Last year, I attended an ice hockey camp in Auckland to see how I would transition into that sport. Wellington had recently acquired an ice hockey rink (not full size) and I could finally try one of my lifelong ambitions and I readily signed myself up to become a Wellington Women’s Seal team member. My skills transferred onto the ice reasonably well and as expected the passion for ice was at 100%.
I still have a lot to learn about this sport, however I was thrilled and surprised to be selected for the U18 NZ women’s ice hockey team to play in Abu Dhabi in April at the Asia Cup. I unfortunately turned my place down this year due to a prior commitment, however I will definitely be on board again if the opportunity arises in 2020.
Both inline and ice hockey in New Zealand is not as big as we all want it to be, however I get to play with passion against, and with, some of the best players in New Zealand who I also consider to be my friends and extended hockey family.
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