A Cool Tradition. A Dream of Champions. Legends of Australian Ice.

Organised ice hockey has been played in Australia for over a CENTURY.

In fact, the ice hockey tradition here is so richly steeped in EMINENCE,

The booming years of MARVELLOUS MELBOURNE,

And the earliest EMERGENCE of the sport internationally,

One wonders how on earth its STORY

Was ever able to be LOST for one whole century,

Like DUST between the cracks of history.

New South Wales Ladies' Ice Hockey Team, Sydney Glaciarium, Australia, 1926. Footage courtesy John Maclurcan. (Click to play) The male skater at the start is Gower Cup referee, C White. He travelled interstate with the girls and was probably also their coach. Most of the women were highly-accomplished skaters and some were state champions in skating and other sports. Kerr was NSW Ladies Figure Skating Champion in 1925 and possibly 1926. Wallach was a sister of the Wallach brothers of Rugby, Lifesaving and Anzac fame. She had represented Australia against England in field hockey in 1914. Ford was also a lawn tennis and rowing champion of New South Wales, representing the State 22 times in tennis from 1906 onwards. This footage is 90 years old, the earliest known moving image of an Australian ice hockey team. It was filmed by Charles Maclurcan (1889-1957), Skating Gold Medallist (Davos), President New South Wales Ice Skating Association. Courtesy John Maclurcan, grandson of Charles.

[Players ID at 1:38] Back row, left to right Elsie Rae (centre) C White (referee), Annie Baker Ford (captain and keeper) Ettie Wallach (right wing).
Front row, left to right: Ita Waite (point] M McWilliam (coverpoint] Nancy Kerr (left wing).

[ HOCKEY ] Glaciarium Girls

The Rise and Fall of the Mighty Jills

There were no women's players I knew of. I didn't even know women's hockey existed.
— Angela Ruggiero, American ice hockey defenseman and author of 'Breaking the Ice: My Journey to Olympic Hockey, the Ivy League & Beyond', 2005.

AT THE OLD RINK THERE WAS A POEM called "Hockey" carved in concrete. It had three words, but the poet had scratched them out. I deceived myself into believing I knew those words until one day the poem's true meaning suddenly dawned on me. You cannot read hockey, only feel it. And if you are one of the lucky ones, you get a feeling about things out there and intuitively understand it.

Hayley Wickenheiser is one of those. She played for Canada at the age of fifteen and she is still going strong after five Olympics and ten world championships. But I don't play for a land of ice and snow. I live in a sun-bleached land of scorching summers and ocean surf. There are no frozen ponds here, only a swimming pool, cricket ground or footy oval on every corner.

I was born on a Monday evening in Melbourne on August 31st 1908, when the Great White Fleet were visiting, and two days after the final of the inaugural Melbourne Carnival, the first Australian rules football interstate competition. My sister was born in Sydney on July 21st, 1914 — about the same time as our distant cousin in America.

In July 1922, when I was just thirteen, I played for an interstate cup donated by Henry Gower and presented by Kathleen Goodall. Like my North American cousin, I was most popular in the 1920s and 1930s, until all that I loved became the exclusive preserve of boys. It was not until 1990 that the international breakthrough came — women from eight countries contested the first World Championship — but I was in a sunburnt country on the other side of the globe. A further decade went by before I competed internationally.

I skated onto the world stage at the dawn of the new millenium in a qualification tournament held for the right to participate in Division I of the world championships. My first game was a 2-0 loss to Netherlands followed by losses to Great Britain, 7-1 and North Korea, 8-1. It was tough going, but then I shutout South Africa, 6-0, and beat New Zealand, 2-1, to qualify for a spot in the 2001 Worlds in Maribor, Slovenia. [1] Although I lost all three matches there, I beat South Africa in the game for seventh place, and I was first overall for Fair Play with an average of six penalty minutes per game.

I was first coached by Kathy Berg who at that time was an undergraduate of the National Coaching Institute at the University of Calgary. She is now an NCCP Advanced 1 Coach and a member of the Canadian Professional Coaches Association. She was presented with a Special Commendation Award in 2007, the year the first Australian women's league was established.

In 2003, again coached by Berg, I won gold in the new Division III, finishing on top of the standings for the first time with four wins from five games. I tied Slovenia 4-4 and defeated Belgium, Hungary, South Africa and Romania. [8] But it was a short-lived promotion to Division II in 2004. I was relegated to Division III and, worse still, I only narrowly avoided relegation to Division IV in 2005 after finishing fifth of six teams by beating a hapless South Africa yet again. Up and down I went, returning to Division II in 2008 and 2012, until I slipped to Division IIB in 2014, and my world ranking dropped to an all-time low, 29th of 37 nations. Even then I barely avoided another relegation in 2015.

In 2016, my new Canadian coach, Lindsay McAlpine, made her international debut. She was formerly a national league player in Edmonton, a pro player with Edmonton Chimos in the Western Women's Hockey League, and an all-star university player. She currently coaches the MacEwan University Griffins women's team and is founder of an all-female school in Alberta. [4]

I won my way back to Division II Group A in 2016 on a world ranking more like I had earned up until 2014. After an overtime loss to Mexico, 2-1, I trounced Turkey, 12-0 and New Zealand, 12-1; then defeated Spain, 4-1, and finally Iceland, 3-2. [9]

I'm a lot wiser today but you know on average I'm just twenty-five years-old, I weigh 65 kg and I'm 166 cm tall. [6] A part of me is based overseas, [10] one part of me has played more international games for Australia than any other woman here; [11] and another has scored the most points. [12]

But, most importantly, I was born here, not on some foreign soil, and it is this country that continues to define me. As I was saying, I don't play for a land of ice and snow. I live in a sun-bleached land of scorching summers and ocean surf. There are no frozen ponds here. Only a swimming pool, cricket ground or footy oval on every corner.

I am the Mighty Jills, the national women's ice hockey team of Australia, but I suppose you have never heard of girls who play ice hockey Down Under. Well, we've been playing for over a century and we are plenty. Three hundred and eighty-nine last count, mate, and don't you forget it. Or we might just kick your ass.

Seven Miles from Sydney: Annie Baker Ford
Newtown Tart: Ettie Wallach

Australian Women's Ice Hockey Team — All-Time Results


[1] The IIHF consider Australia first competed in the Women's Worlds in 2001 although the nation entered through the Pool B qualification tournament held at Dunaujvaros & Szekesferhevar in Hungary between 22nd and 26th March 2000. Online

[2] Resume of Kath Berg. Online

[3] IIHF Official Group B Qualification page. Online

[4] Ice Hockey Australia, 14 Jan 2016, 'Overseas Coach Recruited to Lead National Team'

[5] Elite Hockey Prospects, player profiles, accessed 10 March 2016. Online

[6] IIHF Women's World Championship Div II Group B, Team Australia Roster

[7] The keepers in 2000 were 18 year-old Rebecca Jalleh and 26 year-old Georgina Carroll. The defenders were Kaylee Reitsma, Miri Hamilton-Yates, Joanne Schoof, Amanda Fenton, Tina Morgan, Candice Mitchell and Lisa McMahon. The forwards were Natalie Scoular, Melissa Bibby, Rebecca Collie, Katie Kelly, Sandra Cameron, Maree McDonald, Stephanie Wheaton, Catherine Wilkinson, Anne Potter, Ellen Jones, and Melissa Rulli. [3] Bibby and Mitchell each went on to play 33 Worlds games for Australia. Twenty-three year-old Amanda Fenton was the top point scorer (2-2) and third in the tournament among defensemen scoring leaders. In goal, Jalleh with most minutes produced a save percentage of around 84% and Carroll 100% from an average of 15 minutes each game. Scoular and Jones were ranked twelfth and thirteenth on the face-off leader board. [3]

[8] Thirty year-old Stephanie Boxall was the tournament runner-up on points; 31 year-old Melissa Bibby was fourth; and Rachel White and Lisa McMahon both finished equal sixth with several others. Ashleigh Sluga in net allowed 1 of 24 shots (95.8%) and Emma Reid allowed 6 from 50 (88%).

[9] The top Australian player of the series — Alivia del Basso — was also named the best forward player among all the nations participating in the tournament.

[10] Defenders Stephanie Newmark is an Assistant Coach at Daniel Webster College in the NCAA III (W) league in the USA, [5] and Georgia Moore has played for the Calgary Hurricanes in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL). [6]

[11] Current captain and former coach, twenty-eight year-old Rylie Padjen has played fifty AWT games.

[12] At just twenty-two years of age Alivia del Basso has scored forty points. She has played two seasons (70 games) for University of Minnesota-Duluth in NCAA (W). [5]

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