In the fifth match against Australia's Hockeyroos, Great Britain's Kate Richardson-Walsh entered the record books as she became Great Britain and England’s most capped female hockey player, with 365 caps to her name.
It was the 2012 Olympic Games that saw Kate Richardson-Walsh break into public consciousness after she courageously led Great Britain to the bronze medal despite suffering a broken jaw in the middle of the pool matches. Until then, Richardson-Walsh had been well-known in hockey circles, now she had become a national hero.
In the recently concluded six match test series against Australia, Richardson-Walsh was again in the limelight, this time proving that not only is she captain courageous, she also has remarkable staying power.
Since making her debut in 1999, Kate Richardson-Walsh has represented her country at three Olympic Games, four Hockey World Cups and four Commonwealth Games.
Assistant coach to the team Karen Brown had held the record for over a decade and she was on hand to see her own record go. She said: “While the record is not something I have thought a great deal about over the years, now that it has been broken, a part of me will be sad to see it go. However, as with all records they get broken one day and Kate has had such an incredible career that it is fitting that such an inspirational athlete who I have had the privilege to see grow from the quiet teenager that I played alongside towards the end of my career, into the hugely influential leader and skilled hockey player that she has become.”
Coach to both England and Great Britain, Danny Kerry, added: “Kate exemplifies many many qualities you wish to see at the very highest levels of sport, however the one quality that sticks out to me above all others, and the one I feel is within all truly great players, is that of resilience. Kate’s longevity and perseverance in the international game has seen incredible low points, but has consistently found a way back and this quality has meant she has achieved medals at Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic level.
“This was never more evident than when Kate broke her jaw in the opening game of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Having had surgery to plate her jaw back together, and having only missed two matches, Kate came back to lead the team to Team GB’s first team sport medal in 20 years. I could describe countless other examples of this resilience. Kate, like other high achievers in the Olympic domain, finds a way to keep going, keep pushing herself on and has been an inspiration to so many as a result.”
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The six match series saw Australia win 2-1 overall, with three drawn results being played out between the teams.
During the series, head coach to the Hockeyroos, Adam Commens, announced he will be stepping down from his role after the Rio Olympics, for “family reasons.”
Kerry spoke about the reason for the trip to the other side of the world. He said: “Our trip to Australia was deliberately designed to test both athletes and staff. Long-haul travel, a large time zone difference, very hot playing conditions, tough opposition and an ever changing set of players and combinations has allowed us to explore at an individual and team level what capacity we have and what areas we now need to refine in the final run-in to Rio.
“Had we tried to do this in less challenging circumstances our lens may not have been as focussed as it has been. We have learnt a great deal about ourselves individually and as an aspiring team. The Hockeyroos have excellent strength in depth and have not given an inch in any of the matches. I hope we forge an on-going test series over the years to come as the rivalry and match play remains intense and great to watch.”
The final word goes to Kate Richardson-Walsh, who spoke after receiving her 365th cap. She said: “It was a really special moment to be out there today with Helen [Richardson-Walsh]. We’ve played together so many times and we’ve been through so many ups and downs so it was really special to share this with her.”
As part of the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) Hockey Revolution, a 10 year strategy aimed at making hockey a global game that inspires the next generation, one of the five Key Initiatives identified to achieve this goal is high performing sport. This latest test series and the role that Kate Richardson-Walsh has played throughout her career in the sport, are two examples of high performing sport which are undoubtedly inspiring others to get involved in hockey.
For more information about the Hockey Revolution, click here.
To read more about the test series, visit the Great Britain Hockey website by clicking here, or the Hockey Australia website by clicking here.