SHOALHAVEN Heads’ Kyah Gray and Gerringong products Ash Wright [nee Mayo] and Keeleigh McCauley have starred for their Illawarra South Coast team, to take out the recent NSW women’s open indoor title.
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The trio’s team opened their tournament in Goulburn with a 4-all draw against Nepean, before rattling off three straight wins against North West Sydney (2-1), New England (11-1) and Metro South West (11-1) – to finish their pool in top spot.
This pitted them up against Northern Sydney and Beaches in the semi-final.
Despite the match ending 3-all, ISC progressed to the final, after finishing higher than their opponents during the group stage.
Following their thrilling semi ISC had no such troubles in the decider, smashing Metro South West 7-nil – to claim the gold medal.
“I thought the young group of girls we had played really well together all weekend,” said Gray, who captained the side.
“Everyone played unselfish structured hockey, by always looking for that extra pass – making it really fun to play.
“From a personal perspective, I played in a pivot role, acting as a playmaker and constantly talking to the girls – which I thought I did a good job in.”
This year also marked the first time Gray had played for ISC colours, after five years of playing with a Sydney-based side, due to her studies.
“It was great to be back playing with the ISC girls, as I played with a number of them in Illawarra colours growing up,” Gray said.
“In particular, it was great playing alongside Sassie (Economos) and Tegan (Richards) – who I won an under 15s state title with.
“Still to this date, that under 15s win is one of my favourite memories, closely followed by the win at the weekend.”
This tournament acted as a perfect warm-up for an opportunity of a lifetime for Gray, who will jet off to Belgium on December 1 to join up with professional club Namur.
“This opportunity all started from my time at the Indoor World Cup in Berlin earlier this year,” Gray said.
“My mum and a scout started talking while over there, which led to him contacting me via Facebook when I got home, to see if I was interested in having a season in Belgium.
“Once I sorted out all my university practicals and got the seasons lined up, I penned the deal with the club – keeping me there probably until the middle of February.
“While over there, I intend to learn as much as I can from their coaches, to help take my game to the next level.
“It’ll be great to experience what it is like to be a professional athlete, in an environment that lives and breathes hockey – something I wouldn’t have the chance to do in Australia.
“And with such a long time until our next potential international tournament, I thought it was an opportunity too good to pass up – I’m really excited to test myself against some of the top players in the world.”
Following this victory, Gray and McCauley were rewarded by being named in the NSW opens and under 19s squads respectively – both which will be played at Goulburn in January.
“I’m really excited to be picked for NSW once again, but with the tournament being played in January, I’m going to have to see if I’m able to come home from Belgium at all and play in the tournament, as I’m supposed to be there until mid February,” Gray said.
NSW open women’s indoor side: Jess Parr, Belinda Brooks, Tasmin Bunt, Erin Burns, Caitlin Burns, Samantha Denckert, Lisa Farrell, Kyah Gray, Nicole King, Emma McLeish, Tegan Richards and Elanor Woods.
NSW under 21 women’s indoor side: Chloe Barrett, Emma Corcoran, Abigail Doolan, Litiana Field, Kelsey Hughes, Sarah Johnston, Keeleigh McCauley, Zoe Newman, Taylah Parker, Riley Smith, Taylor Thomson and Helena Tobbe.
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