Judy Aitkenhead, team member of the Queensland Veteran’s Hockey side playing in Canberra at the national title.
Judy Aitkenhead, team member of the Queensland Veteran’s Hockey side playing in Canberra at the national title. Chrissy Harris

Veterans turn back the clock

JUDY Aitkenhead has probably hit more hockey balls than many teams put together over her long career.

Along with Norma Smith, another of Gladstone's golden veteran hockey players, Aitkenhead is off to Canberra for the National Veteran Championships later this month.

The girls are part of the Queensland contingent taking on the other states – and if you think it's a laidback affair, it isn't.

“The standard's high and very competitive,” Aitkenhead said.

“They won the gold last year, so we're hoping to retain it this year.

“It's a mobile team, even though it's 60-pluses, there's young 60s and there's old 60s and a couple of them still run marathons.”

Queensland is represented in every age group, from over 35 through to 60-plus.

For Aitkenhead, the national carnival is a chance to meet and compete with like-minded sportspeople.

“Playing hockey with people who understand hockey because most of them are ex-state players,” she said.

Fullback is Aitkenhead's position of choice at club level, but with the transition to national level, things get shuffled around on the field.

“Us fullbacks tend to have to go forward, and hopefully I end up at centre forward or right wing,” Aitkenhead said.

Her hockey career began she was 17 and attending teacher's college, and was a part of the Bundaberg state champion team.

“I can go anywhere in Australia, socialise, get a bed for the night, and can go and cheer on at a meet,” she said.

“I like the skill side of it (the game).”

Hockey runs in the Aitkenhead family, and Judy was fortunate to play alongside her daughter Helen. “That was at the state championships in Warwick when I captained the side, I was very proud of that, it was fantastic,” she said.

Smith, who has a long and decorated hockey career, is an accomplished hockey player, and has played in the Australian Championships with the Queensland team since 1999, missing only one year.



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