GERRINGONG'S Grace Stewart admits the past six months have been tough.
A member of the Hockeyroos, the squad typically holds a low profile in Perth, away from the spotlight of Sydney and Melbourne.
That was the case until November, when the turmoil within the team became front-page news.
Accusations of a negative culture and mismanagement led to a review of the national hockey setup, with coach Paul Gaudoin stepping down in March.
All this coming in the build up to the postponed Tokyo Olympics.
That delay, Stewart feels, played a role in tensions spilling into the public domain.
"With the build up of COVID-19, the Olympics, everything all came together at once and it bubbled over," Stewart said.
"It was the impact of a lot of things coming together that brought it to a head.
"It has been tough, but everyone's had that common goal, we still need to get on with the job.
"Everyone's focused on performing well at the Olympics.
"When we're at training, it's almost as if nothing's going on.
"We would go in there, do our work and get the job done. It's been tough, but we're on the other side of it now."
With the Games three months away, the Hockeyroos are eager to put the controversy behind them.
Dual Olympic champion Katrina Powell heads up a new coaching staff, with two-time gold medal-winning coach Ric Charlesworth leading the selection panel.
Stewart was coached by Powell in the NSW team and said the mentor's experience will bring a steady hand to the group.
"Trinny has been really good since she's come in ... she's come in and observed the team, hasn't changed too much, she's really good at bringing the team together and putting us on the right track.
"She's one of those people when she speaks, everyone listens.
"She's respected, she's been here before, she's won gold medals, we're hanging off every word she's said.
"Also being a striker, she's a striker coach, I love learning from her and everything she says about scoring goals."
Through all the off-field distractions, the Hockeyroos goal for Tokyo remains the same. Gold.
With no international matches played in the past year due to coronavirus, Stewart concedes it's hard to gauge exactly where her team is placed.
They hope to receive an indication in a series with New Zealand later this month, however recent COVID-19 cases in Perth have put those games in jeopardy.
With or without those matches, the Rio Olympian remains confident her team will be in the mix for the medals in Tokyo.
"It's hard to know exactly how we're going," Stewart said.
"We're feeling good and playing practice games against each other and the Western Australian 18 boys.
"We are going in blind a little bit, that can be both a positive and negative.
"With a new coach coming in, we have changed a couple of things so no one knows what we're doing.
"On the same side, we don't know what others are doing, but we're all in the same boat so it's an even playing field.
"The goal is still to win a medal.
"Even with a lot of the stuff going on over the past few months, everyone is in a good place.
"The mindset is on winning a medal, everyone is working hard on that."
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