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Hockey: Perseverance pays off for Aussie late bloomer

Known as one of hockey's best drag-flickers, Jodie Kenny famously demonstrated her signature skill to score an equaliser against England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games final with just 16 seconds left.

That sent the match into a penalty shoot-out, which the Australian women's team eventually won for the Hockeyroos' third consecutive gold medal. The icing on the cake? The defender was the top scorer with 10 goals.

The 28-year-old had also helped Australia to second place at the 2014 Women's Hockey World Cup and a year later, she was named her country's Player of the Year.

Tomorrow, Kenny will find out if she will be crowned the International Hockey Federation's Women's Player of the Year. She is nominated alongside Britain's Alex Danson, Argentinian Delfina Merino, Lidewij Welten from the Netherlands and South Korea's Park Mi Hyun.

Like Welten, the 1.83m-tall Kenny was in town last week for the The Project Group (TPG) International Tri-Series tournament. She captained the world No. 3 Hockeyroos in their opening 1-1 draw against world No. 8 Germany.

On the possibility of being named the best player in the world, she said: "I am a little surprised at the nomination but I am also really happy and honoured to be nominated for the (Player of the Year) award.

Australia's Jodie Kenny in action during last week's TPG International Tri-Series women's hockey tournament.
Australia's Jodie Kenny in action during last week's TPG International Tri-Series women's hockey tournament. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

"I wasn't really aiming for the nomination, I was just trying to be the best player I could possibly be and I hadn't really thought about it. But it would mean everything to be the best player in the world, and it'll be a massive reward for all the hard work."

Despite her recent success, there was a time when the Australian was not convinced that hockey was the sport for her.

"I was in the Australian development squad for over four years and was in the awkward age where I would be an outstanding 15-year-old but then I would miss all the junior tournaments for the next four years and I questioned myself if I wanted to keep going," said Kenny, who made her Australia debut at the age of 23.

"But my coach at the Queensland Academy of Sport told me to give it one more year due to a national coaching change and I did. I got fit and even attended a camp in Perth and soon, I got selected by our new coach Adam Commens."

Since making her international debut at the age of 23, the late bloomer has won 154 caps and netted 93 goals to be the Hockeyroos' fourth-highest ever scorer.

Said Commens: "She has a lot of outletting skills, she can push, she can hit and she can play in the air. She has great corner-attacking skills and she's a very good defender as well. She's someone who has been very influential in all of the tournaments for Australia.

"It was a well-deserved nomination."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2016, with the headline 'Perseverance pays off for Aussie late bloomer'. Print Edition | Subscribe