NEW SURROUNDS: Maryborough goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon, pictured playing for ACT Strikers in the Australian Hockey League, has moved to New Zealand where she will play for the Black Sticks.
NEW SURROUNDS: Maryborough goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon, pictured playing for ACT Strikers in the Australian Hockey League, has moved to New Zealand where she will play for the Black Sticks. Contributed / Click In Focus Pho

Grace O'Hanlon switches to the Black Sticks

A LACK of opportunity spurred Grace O'Hanlon's leap of faith across the ditch.

The Maryborough product has spent the past fortnight adapting to her new surrounds in New Zealand, where she will live and play as one of the Black Sticks' first-choice goalkeepers.

O'Hanlon had trained as part of the Hockeyroos setup for two years, but the 24-year-old did not believe an opportunity in Australia's top-squad would open in the near future.

"Their Rio (Olympics) keeper Rachael Lynch didn't retire and Ashlee Wells hasn't retired; they're both signed until 2018,” she said.

"I'm 25 this year and I thought if I wanted to play international hockey it was time to act.”

She was scouted by New Zealand's selectors, who contacted the Brothers Maryborough junior during her stint as ACT Strikers' goalie in the Australian Hockey League.

O'Hanlon, who qualifies for New Zealand courtesy of her father, considered the offer.

"I came over in December for a trial and at the end, they offered me a contract,” she said. "I've met most of the girls already and they're lovely. The bulk of their side from Rio is still here.

"They're a very hard-working group.”

O'Hanlon has already been picked in her first Black Sticks squad, and will travel with the side as a back-up goalkeeper in their tour of Argentina.

The tour will be a reunion of sorts, as O'Hanlon is united with fellow Maryborough product, Australian hockey legend, and current Black Sticks coach Mark Hager.

For O'Hanlon, who spent the past two years in Perth, the driving force was a belief that the only thing that could stop her from achieving her international dreams was herself.

"The only thing in your way is you,” she said.

"At this level, everyone can hit, everyone can trap, everyone can score.

"You have to improve yourself; nobody will do it for you, and there were a few girls who expected it to be handed to them.”

O'Hanlon will tour with the Black Sticks for the Tests from February 10-22, which will double as the first major opportunity to claim her place as New Zealand's premier goalkeeper.

If all goes to plan O'Hanlon could return to Australia next year as an integral member of the Black Sticks outfit for the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.



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