PLAYING for Australia will produce mixed feelings for Whakatane born-and-bred hockey player Sharon Clark.
The 37-year-old striker won the Australian masters state championship with Queensland at the national tournament in Newcastle last week.
Clark’s form was good enough to earn her a place in the Australian over-35 team to compete at next year’s FIH Masters World Cup in Barcelona.
Clark moved to the Gold Coast in 2011 and hockey has been a massive part of her life. Her parents have been the backbone of Waiohau hockey since before Clark was born. She said the grassroots game, her time with Waiohau, Whakatane High School and rep teams, had formed the backbone of her career.
“Playing alongside my mum and aunties and cousins, you learned respect and trust for people in your team. It imbedded a good work ethic in me. I also carry that pride of my home town, where it all started.”
Queensland conceded just one goal in the tournament, in a draw with Victoria, before beating the same team in the final.
“It was tough hockey,” Clark said. “But our team camaraderie and the depth that the girls wanted to fight with for each other out on the field was what got us through. I think it showed we were more of a gelled team.”
Clark did not put her name forward for national selection at the 2014 state tournament and then a knee injury forced her to take a break last year.
“I went into this tournament without expectation of making the team. I have reserved feelings about playing for Australia and I will always wear a silver fern on the inside.”
Clark said if they come up against New Zealand she would treat it like another game of hockey. “If there was an opportunity to go back home and play, I would definitely do it.”
Clark said while recovery had become increasingly important in recent years, she was in good hockey shape.
“Fitness is the key, it is not just skill. When I was coming through, skill helped me through the levels. Now I am a fitter person and enjoy hockey at a different level.”