Geez Louise was a champ

July 17, 2017

Ultimate reward: Louise Dobson (centre) won gold at the 1996 Olympic Games, having began palying the sport at the Windangs Hockey Club.

Still involved: Louise Dobson was involved in the commentary of hockey at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, having been a gold medallist herself at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

Elated: Louise Dobson celebrates a team mate's goal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

An Olympic gold medal for Louise Dobson would be just reward for a brilliant career that started at Windangs Hockey Club.

The Dobson family was hockey mad, with her mother Margot a player as all three of her her daughters became involved in the sport.

Pauline was a handy striker, with older sister Christine making the Australian side before Louise did.

The hockey talent was mainly along the female lines in the family, with father Noel more into his footy.

But Noel would always go and watch his daughters play in the hockey grand final, although Louise Dobson said footy was never far from his mind.

‘‘I have lots of fond memories (at the Windangs), my Dad is very much a football fanatic and only came down to watch us play at the grand final,’’ she said.

‘‘He’d have a black and white TV in the back of the car (to watch the footy).

‘‘I fondly remember days like that and they’re things you take away from your sport.’’

Along with her sisters, Dobson played with plenty of family friends as hockey was bound by relatives playing, the same as it is today.

Dobson would go on to reach the pinnacle of her sport in 1996, winning gold at the Atlanta Olympics.

Defeating Korea 3-1 in the gold medal match, Dobson was able to enjoy the spotlight for longer than many athletes.

‘‘I remember it was a really tight game (in the final) and everyone was pretty nervous, but you had to keep doing what you’re doing and have to mentally wear them down,’’ she said.

‘‘To stand up on the dais is a huge relief and you want it to last forever.

‘‘You have to wait up there while everyone gets their medal and then there are the two other teams up there getting medals, so you’re up there for about five minutes, it was great fun.

‘‘I can’t believe it’s over 21 years ago.’’

Last year the gold medal side had a 20-year reunion, as Dobson and her teammates reflected on the year that brought them Order of Australia Medals.

The ultimate glory for Dobson came after she decided to take an extra year to prepare to enter the sport at an elite level.

Having been a part of the side that won the Junior World Cup in 1993 in Barcelona, that under-21 team provided many players for the Atlanta Olympics.

Dobson was selected into the senior squad in 1994 to train at the Australian Institute of Sport’s hockey base in Perth.

But the timing was not quite right for Dobson.

‘‘I was there for a little while, but basically I went to (Hockeyroos coach) Ric Charlesworth (and said) I didn’t want to be there, it was all too hard for me, so I took myself home and went back to Melbourne and worked pretty hard for the next 12 months,’’ she said.

‘‘I found the jump a bit too much for me and came home and worked hard at the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport) in Melbourne and in 1995, I went on the pre-Olympic tour.

‘‘When you’re in an underage team, the element of the age factor is a restriction for people, it’s a nice sort of safety bracket, but then you go up against all sorts of people and it’s a massive step and I was not quite ready for it in 1994.

‘‘It was a whirlwind couple of years, getting into the squad, pulling myself out of the squad and then being given another opportunity and at that point I was mentally ready.’’

Two years after the Atlanta Olympics, Dobson competed for Australia at the Commonwealth Games, the first time the sport had been included at the event.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Hockeyroos would again savour gold with a 8-1 annihilation of England in the final.

Dobson said the Games truly lived up to an inclusive spirit for all nations to embrace.

‘‘There were some very different countries there and some of them weren’t as strong as what we were, but to see the excitement on the faces of players from those particular countries (was memorable),’’ she said.

‘‘You’d go to play them and they’d say can we have an autograph, they were so poor we’d give them sticks, the community spirit of the game is just as important (as the sporting side).’’

Dobson missed out on a chance to compete at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which she said was partly through form as well as two shoulder reconstructions.

But she did have another Olympics chance, back in the side for Athens four years later.

Dobson knew that would be her last international tournament, to notch up 230 international caps for her career.

‘‘I knew I was going to retire after Athens and I was comfortable at that point of retirement, it was nice to have my sisters there at that particular tournament,’’ she said.

‘‘I had my ups and downs, that’s sport... I wouldn’t change any of that, it would’ve been nice to play in Sydney, but that’s the risk of putting yourself out there.’’

Dobson lives in Canberra where she remains involved in elite sport, as vice-president of the ACT Olympic Council with her career all stemming back to her beginnings with Windangs Hockey Club.

‘‘I’m very grateful for growing up in Shepp, when you look at the teams a lot of country people come into our sport and it’s not a coincidence,’’ she said.

‘‘Players from the country are very hard-working players and it’s taken a massive part to get there.’’

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