Parker packs a punch as she qualifies for Tokyo

This post was first written and published for The Roar

he COVID-19 pandemic means our Olympic athletes will wait until 2021 to chase their Tokyo dreams. But for Caitlin Parker, one more year isn’t too long in the scheme of things.

Parker may only be 23, but she considers herself a veteran in the sport of boxing.

Picking up the gloves at age 11, after she achieved her black belt in tae kwon do, Parker’s first bout was when she was just 13 years old – against a 25-year-old woman.

After just missing the Australian team for Rio, Parker qualified for Tokyo last month in Jordan and is now prepared to wait another year.

“You have to be flexible. The goal is the same. There is nothing I can do, it is out of my control,” says Parker.

“Everyone else is going through the same thing and there are plenty of other people going through things much harder than I am.”

Like many other female athletes, Parker found her way to boxing via a number of other sports. She took up the aforementioned tae kwon do at the encouragement of her father, who wouldn’t let her walk to school on her own until she was a black belt.

Parker also represented Western Australia in rugby sevens and spent her early years making boys cry when she tackled them because she was a lot bigger.

But surprisingly, the first sport she can remember taking part in was dancing.

“When I was about four I started dancing,” she says.

“It wasn’t a particular type of dancing, just spinning around to Alice in Wonderland music and dancing in a circle.

“At that stage I wanted to be a ballerina because I watched all the older girls and was amazed. But my life certainly took a different turn when I started tae kwon do.”

Parker was exposed to professional competition for the first time in tae kwon do but after achieving her black belt she wanted to try something new, so she turned to her local – where she was doing jiu-jitsu – and noticed boxing was another offering.

While she loved it from the beginning, there were challenges. As an 11-year-old, there was a severe lack of competition and Parker was the only girl at her gym. That instilled a sense of determination in her.

“I liked to be able to prove myself in male-dominated sports, especially sparring against the boys,” says Parker.

“In boxing, none of the boys wanted to spar me. So I thought, if you just want to stand there, that’s fine, but I knew they would have to make a move once I got them a few times.”

It took two years before Parker had her first fight. From there she competed at state, then national level (where she knocked out her opponent in just 45 seconds), then was selected in the Australian team when she was 15.

And now, the Olympics are but a year away.

In the time Parker has been competing, there has been an explosion in the opportunities available in women’s sport – with cricket, rugby league, AFL and rugby now on the national stage – and this has had an impact on the sweet science.

“When I first started boxing, there were hardly any girls in the sport. In Western Australia there were some veterans, but they were nearing the end of their careers and I was just beginning so I did feel a bit alone,” says Parker.

“There are lots more women coming through now. The shift has been incredible. Even women doing it for fitness is important.

“I love to see it and I’m seeing a lot more of it.”

Despite this, people are still shocked when they find out Parker is a pugilist, proclaiming she doesn’t look like a boxer.

“What is a boxer supposed to look like?” Parker asks them.

“People expect me to be big. But we have five women on the Australian team and they are all beautiful girls. None of them fit the criteria of what a boxer is supposed to look like.

“And we are all really proud to be involved in the sport and to be breaking down stereotypes.”

Georgie Rowe-ing her way to Tokyo

This article was first written for and published by the Roar. 

eorgie Rowe has already achieved plenty in the sport of rowing.

In 2016 she was crowned a national champion at the Australian Indoor Rowing Championships and in 2018 made her debut for the Australian Rowing team in the women’s eight for the World Rowing Cups and World Rowing Championships. Rowe won two medals internationally and went on to win the Remenham Challenge Cup at the 2018 Henley Royal Regatta.

Netball Australia comes together in aid of bush fire relief

This article was first written and published for the Roar.

This weekend the Australian summer will come to an end, and with that comes hope that there will be relief for large parts of the country following the most devastating bushfire season our country has ever faced.

Just like other sports, following the bushfires, Netball Australia were quick to announce a fundraising initiative, the most notable being the game this Sunday between the Australian Diamonds and a Suncorp Super Netball All Star team.

It’s a unique concept that will see players from across the globe come together to play a game against the top-ranked Diamonds.

While this game has been given plenty of coverage, with Channel Nine committing to broadcasting this game live, it is just one component of a wider strategy that will see players from across the Suncorp Super Netball competition continue to support those impacted on an ongoing basis.

One such player is Sam Poolman from Giants Netball, who this Saturday will be holding an 11s development day. The event will feature 30 teams from Woy Woy all the way to Taree and Tamworth and every area in between. Despite the scale of the idea, it has come together very quickly.

“I got an email from Netball Australia asking if I would want to take part in their fundraising initiative and we started to think about how I could be involved and how that might look,” says Poolman.

It was late on a Friday afternoon and Poolman was asked if she was interested in running a clinic, given Poolman spends plenty of time away from the court doing just that through her Aspire programs.

While Poolman was very keen on the idea, she wanted to make sure that she could ensure that the netball community came together collectively on this and filled any potential gap that needed filling.

“That’s why we targeted the 11s space,” she says.

“This space is the start of representative netball for young girls and it’s when they begin to represent their association. Rather than being team-based, it is squad-based and it’s a wonderful chance for associations to begin developing their younger netballers.”

The next challenge in bringing this to life was that given the challenges many people have faced throughout this bushfire season, she had concerns that emails might not get responded to. Additionally, netball season hasn’t started yet so she was worried her concept would fall through the cracks. So then Poolman picked up the phone.

Sam Poolman

(Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

“It took three whole afternoons,” says Poolman.

“I called 22 netball association presidents in the Hunter and Central Coast Regions and wanted them to know we could be part of something together as a sport. This was not only a chance to fundraise, but also develop our players umpires and coaches at the same time. Every single one of them said yes.”

Since then, each association has been of great support to Poolman in organising her clinic, which will include two components. The first will see all the players come together, wearing a white shirt and black shorts to remove their links to their respective associations and the hierarchy that can exist among young women. Then they will be mixed up and given the opportunity to train together. The second part of the day will feature a round-robin competition between the various teams.

There will also be mentoring for umpires and the players as well as an umpiring workshop.

In organising this event, Poolman has once again been reminded of the capacity for people to come together in challenging circumstances and be generous towards others. There was no greater example of this than the president of the Great Lakes association.

This association represents Taree and Forster, which were impacted by the bushfires. When Poolman asked whether part of the day could be used to fundraise for that association, she was met with a firm no.

“The response blew me away. The president told me that while their area may have been hit, that they are okay,” Poolman says.

“As a community they came together and raised $15,000 for their fire brigade and because of that, she was happy for me to raise money for other people that needed it more.”

Netball Australia has also given Poolman 40 tickets to the All Stars game on Sunday and has helped organise a bus from Forster to Sydney.

For Poolman, “this is our way of supporting each other and coming together through netball.”

“When I started organising this event, I was conscious that so many people have given so much already. In response to any questions about how much I am intending to raise, I remind everyone that that’s not what this is about.

“We are going to come together and as a sport collectively do what we can. I’m proud that netball is doing a lot of little initiatives through the year and understand the ongoing need. The Giants have also spoken about going to the South Coast later in the year to help our netball communities.

“This is an ongoing focus for us and we will continue to do all that we can to help those impacted.”

Courtney Hancock becomes Australia’s greatest female ocean athlete

This article was first written for and published by the Roar.

Increasingly sport is being viewed as an entertainment concept, and in recent years we have seen many sports experiment with changes to bring added levels of excitement to fans.

In Australia we’ve seen Cricket Australia introduce the Big Bash, the AFL experimented with AFLX, rugby league has a nines format and for rugby union, sevens is now an Olympic sport and the Aussie Pearls are the reigning Olympic champions.

But our major sports are not the only ones experimenting.

The personal motivation fuelling Aussie women at the Sydney sevens

This article was first written for and published by the Roar

After finishing fourth over the weekend in Hamilton, the Australian women head into the Sydney leg of the world sevens tournament ranked second behind New Zealand.

Shannon Parry is one of the players hoping to compete this weekend, particularly given this is the team’s home tournament.

“Having been in this game for a little while and being one of the oldest players in the team, I have only played at home a couple of times and every time it is so memorable,” Parry says.

Hockeyroos ready for Pro League challenge

This article was first written for and published by the Roar.  Please note that Mary sits on the board of Hockey Australia.

The Hockeyroos begin their journey towards Tokyo this weekend with the start of the FIH Pro League.

With matches scheduled in both Sydney and Perth over the next month, Australia have the opportunity to test themselves against some of the best nations in the world, including Belgium, Great Britain, Argentina and New Zealand.

Lana Rogers wins maiden IronWoman crown

This article was first written for and published by the Roar

On Sunday, the final event of the 2019-2020 Nutri-Grain IronWoman series will take place at North Cronulla beach.

Several talented women will be competing, but the overall outcome has already been determined.