Kalindi Commerford uses time at home to refresh ahead of Olympics assault

Former Ulladulla High School student Kalindi Commerford returned home when the Hockeyroos program was shut down. Photo: Hockey Australia
Former Ulladulla High School student Kalindi Commerford returned home when the Hockeyroos program was shut down. Photo: Hockey Australia

Kalindi Commerford stands on her front porch and looks to the mountains surrounding her hometown Milton.

There are burnt trees as far as the eye can see, a stark reminder of the devastating bushfire season.

The Hockeyroos and Canberra Chill star knew this homecoming would be different.

She had, after all, felt the impact of the Currowan fire firsthand during her Christmas break.

But out went the fires and in came the coronavirus, putting her Olympics dream on hold and leaving the town in limbo.

"Coming back felt like a double whammy," Commerford said.

"The whole Olympics dream was on hold for another year, I'd left all my friends and new way of life to then come home and face the reality of what my summer was.

"It's something you really need to see, just how far spread and close it came to houses. I've been here for about a month and still think, 'how is this place still standing?'

Commerford spending time with her nieces and nephews in Milton. Photo: Supplied

Commerford spending time with her nieces and nephews in Milton. Photo: Supplied

"The mountains are completely burnt, there are houses whose fences are gone.

"It's truly a confronting thing to see, but you can also appreciate the firies and what they did to save so many properties.

"I hope the COVID-19 pandemic doesn't take away from the need to support the people in this area, now more than ever."

Commerford fled Perth just hours before Western Australia closed its border last month and has since been isolated with her family in Milton.

The Hockeyroos program was shut down the day before the travel ban kicked in, leaving Commerford just four hours to get on a flight.

The Australian squad will reconvene in Perth and train as a group in September, with players to train individually in the meantime.

There's no hockey turf in Milton, so Commerford has used the coronavirus-forced shutdown to put down the stick and spend time with her family.

But she's now starting to itch for some hockey action.

"I have a lot of nieces and nephews on the coast and generally they would win if I was playing a game with them. At the moment, they're not winning because I'm competitive and need an outlet," she grins down the phone.

"It's been a big adjustment, this is what I'd imagine life after hockey would feel like.

"But physically, I'm using this time to get as fit and strong as I can.

"It's an opportunity to work on little injuries that come from overused hockey positions and get them stronger for next year.

"Hockey matches require different muscles and such different fitness.

"I need to make sure I'm gradually re-introducing load so I don't get injured or sore.

"Then when I'm back in Perth, I'll be ready and hit the ground running."

Gabi Nance and Kalindi Commerford wear facemasks on the flight home from Perth. Photo: Supplied

Gabi Nance and Kalindi Commerford wear facemasks on the flight home from Perth. Photo: Supplied

The 25-year-old Hockeyroo plans to move from the South Coast in June to be closer to training facilities and optimise her Olympics preparation.

She's been in contact with Chill coach Ian Rutledge about training in Canberra once or twice a week when it's safe to do so.

There is no Hockey One competition this year, meaning players will likely try out for the Australian 2021 squad via an internal camp.

Commerford has only played five international matches this year due to the coronavirus-forced suspension of the Pro League season.

The International Hockey Federation has extended the season through to June 2021, ensuring its second edition can be completed and commercial agreements upheld.

It means the Hockeyroos have five fewer games scheduled for next year's Tokyo Olympics preparation.

"There are other quality teams around the world that aren't in the Pro League and will be looking for games," the Ulladulla High School alumna said.

"These opportunities are crucial, especially leading into an Olympic Games.

"The best way to prepare for any sort of tournament is to play games, but in terms of the actual operating year, it's exactly the same as this year was going to be.

"So, you've just to make the most out of these opportunities.

"I've only played five games this year and unless you're injured, that's abnormal.

"The thing most of us miss the most and feel significant sadness about, this is just going to be a year of running and training."

This story Commerford uses time at home to refresh ahead of Olympics assault first appeared on The Canberra Times.