Alia Jaques has come a long way since running around her garden with a tiny hockey stick.
Since showing an interest in the sport as a youngster, she has gone on to represent New Zealand as a Junior Black Stick and is currently in the National Black Sticks Development Squad.
Hamilton born and raised, the former Waikato Diocesan School student picked up a hockey stick when she was just five, wanting to follow in the footsteps of her older siblings.
“They both played hockey and dad coached our primary school team, so I was always enthusiastic about it. I was so little that my dad broke a hockey stick in half so I could play.”
The cost of ruining one hockey stick turned out to be a good decision. Alia hasn’t wavered from her love of the sport and the committed athlete has always prioritised hockey; her determination to succeed seeing her juggle full time study, two part-time jobs and regular travel to Auckland for training sessions.
A year of firsts and career highlights for Alia, 2016 saw her wear the iconic black and white uniform on more than one occasion. First up was playing for the New Zealand Under 21 team at the Junior World Cup in Chile, followed by her debut (a week later) in the national Black Sticks’ team in a test series against Malaysia (which New Zealand won).
Alia now trains regularly in Auckland with the Black Sticks she grew up idolising, as part of the National Black Sticks Development Squad.
“Now I’m aiming to get fitter and faster, with a long term goal of being part of the Black Sticks team for the Tokyo Olympics.”
Fitness Journal finds out more…
What motivates you?
The love of the game is a big motivator and wanting to be the best I can be. Representing your country is such a thrill and in those hard moments I am able to dig deeper to make my country proud, my family and the community who support me and enable me to do what I love. It is a physical game that has so many different aspects and that is why I love it so much.
What are the challenges?
Keeping up my fitness and overcoming injuries. I have had some major injuries throughout my hockey career, with an ACL rupture when I was younger and a stress fracture a few years later. These just made me more determined to get back on the pitch and I learnt to appreciate every minute on the field, because I knew how I felt when I couldn’t play. Another challenge is juggling university, hockey, work and family/friends. It takes a lot to manage and it helps to have people who understand around you.
Who are your supporters?
Midlands High Performance director Simon Brill, who always takes the time to advise and help me. He has believed that I can always give something special to each team I am part of. Another important person is Christina Jacklin. And most importantly my family and friends who have always been there to support me, from driving me to training in Auckland when I need to study, to just being the best support I could ask for.
What does your sport involve?
It is physically demanding and one you can always improve your skills for, even if you are the best. The average week usually involves three to four training sessions, usually club, regional or high performance sessions. Then we have two games in the weekend. Some trainings are fitness-based, others skills and some are understanding based.
What are your short-term goals?
Implementing a skill perfectly in a game which I have been working hard to do in training.
To compete in an Olympic Games and win a gold medal. This involves a lot of hard work and getting selected into the Development Squad or Black Sticks squad.
What are your favourite local places to train?
Swarbrick Park in Dinsdale which is where I live, as the place is usually quiet in the mornings with great flat areas and hills for training. Also the YouthFit gym which is where I do all my strength and conditioning with my coach Barry Jennings who has known me since high school. I love Gallagher Hockey Turf because it is right by the lake and is so close to my house.
Where in the world would you would like to train/compete?
Holland – the atmosphere would be incredible as they treat their hockey players like superstars and because they are the best in the world. I would love to be a part of that and learn from the players there.
What other sports have you have played?
Through high school I was involved in; equestrian, touch, athletics, cross country.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to play hockey?
The sport is so much fun and you make great friends. For those who have aspirations and dreams; keep trying and never give up. One of my favourite quotes is ‘if you never give up, you can never fail’. And as cliché as it, ‘the best things are never easy’.
• NZ Futures, Junior World Cup Qualifier – 2nd
• Midlands U21 – 1st
• Midlands NHL – 3rd
• NZ Futures, AHL Perth Tour – 6th
• Junior World Cup
• Black Sticks National team test series against Malaysia
• NZ U21 Japan series – 2nd
• Midlands U21 – 3rd
• Midlands NHL – 3rd
• NZ U21 India series – 1st
• Midlands U21 – 4th