Victorian Women’s Lacrosse

Lacrosse is a very small sport in Australia. There are two forms – men’s and women’s – and the rules are quite different, with the men’s game being much more physical. My exposure to the sport has been limited to the women’s game, through my children’s participation, so this article is confined to that form of the game.

Audrey and Ursula were introduced to lacrosse through Helen and my friendship with Colleen Hunter. Colleen had been asking for some time whether the girls were interested in coming down and having a go. They were busy with their basketball, but eventually relented. Living in Williamstown as we do, lacrosse has a reasonable profile, so the girls knew a few people who played – some of their first team mates were school friends of their older brother.

Colleen Hunter (nee McVeigh) is a lacrosse legend. A long-time Williamstown resident she was introduced to the game, when in about form one, by someone who lived across the road. At that time, everybody in Williamstown knew someone who played. As a teenager, Colleen represented Victoria for a couple of years at under 16 level. After that it was straight into open-age competition. Colleen’s State representative career continued for the next twenty years or more. Over the same period she represented  Australia many times including in four world cups, which are played every four years. She travelled to England, Japan and America, often as either captain or vice-captain. Colleen’s last game for Australia was in 1997, which was, incidentally, after the birth of her first two children. Colleen was an excellent person for the girls to have as their first junior lacrosse coach.

Women’s lacrosse in Melbourne is a winter sport, played on a Sunday. All the scheduled games, from Under 11 through to State league, are played at the one venue. If there is not sufficient capacity at the one venue, the overflow will be played nearby. The location will rotate from week-to-week, but all the games will move together. There is good logistical reasoning behind this scheduling: players are also required as coaches; players are often required to play more than one age division; players are required as umpires; junior players often also play open-age games. As a consequence, it could be that a Newport versus Williamstown game (traditional rivals by-the-way) is scheduled at Caulfield.

Interest in lacrosse seems to reside in isolated geographical pockets. The Western suburbs are well represented by Williamstown, Newport, Footscray and Altona. The East encompasses Camberwell, Chadstone and Caulfield. And then there is everyone’s favourite Sunday destination – Eltham. Outside these locations, you need to have some direct connection to the game to even know that it exists.

As Audrey’s and Ursula’s (and their parents’) interest in representative basketball waned, their interest in lacrosse has increased. Their coaching at Williamstown has been exemplary. Their current under 13 team’s coach has been Kate Splatt (nee McHarg). As a junior footballer Kate represented Victoria, and not in a girls’ competition. Once age precluded her from competitive football, and being from Williamstown, naturally she moved into lacrosse. She has represented Victoria many times and is an Australian player. Kate spent four years (‘04 to ‘07) in the US playing for Loyola University in Maryland while on a sports scholarship. She was a prolific scorer. When she eventually returned to Australia, Kate took a couple of years off playing and coaching – the unrelenting nature of US College sport can do that to you. But now she is back, and our girls have gained a huge benefit from her coaching. In addition, in the first half of the current season, Kate’s assistant was a former Loyola team mate and Buffalo NY native Kristen Stone. Unfortunately Kristen had to return to the US, but I believe her re-entry to Australia is imminent. As an outcome of the input from those two brilliant coaches, Audrey and Ursula’s skills have improved dramatically and their understanding of the plays and structures increased accordingly. And they have really enjoyed the game.

So where does this all take us? To Adelaide to be exact. As announced on August 18, on AFL grand final eve, Audrey and Ursula board a plane headed for the Under 15 Women’s Lacrosse National Championship. Victoria has two teams in the competition, and Audrey and Ursula, having attended try-outs over the last four weeks, have won selection. The coach rang to check whether it is okay to have the two girls in separate teams, and that is fine by the girls and fine by us. It is an exciting time for them and for Helen and me – and even for their brothers.  The girls have only one concern. Ursula barracks for Geelong as does her mother, and Audrey for Collingwood like her father. What if it is a Collingwood – Geelong Grand Final?

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. Andrew,
    I remember when growing up in Williamstown, it was often said that it was the only place in Australia where kids playing footy and kids playing lacrosse on the streets would be equal in number.
    DD.

  2. Andrew Fithall says:

    Thanks Darren.

    Colleen Hunter told me last night I had made a mistake in this by not mentioning that she was the one who taught Kate how to play! Sorry Colleen. And an update on Kristen – she is now back in the country and is an assistant to Kate for the Victorian Under 15s.

  3. Nice story, Andrew. Good luck to both Ursula and Audrey. But sorry, I can’t bring myself to wish luck to either of their footy teams.

    Interesting to hear how the sport’s concentrated only in pockets of Melbourne. Is there a thesis on that somewhere?

    Regarding your mention of the men’s version being much more physical, given the damage that can be done by both ball and stick, I was not surprised to discover that LACROSSE is an anagram of SAC LOSER…

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