Long-time Orange coach Annie Pakinga has her own achievement to celebrate after being named assistant coach of NSW’s under-13 Stars side, but she pushed the spotlight onto 13-year-old goalkeeper Jess Healey.
Healey has been named in that side for October’s Hockey Australia Under-13 National Carnival, where she’ll make her first appearance in the sky blue of NSW.
After helping Orange to a sixth finish in division two at the state titles in July Healey was one of nine goalkeepers called into the NSW squad, and made the final cut for the Stars after a rigorous selection process.
“Only four goalkeepers get chosen across the Stars and Lions sides, in under 13s there’s two even teams rather than a top side and a Blues side, so it’s a pretty big call-up for Jess,” Pakinga said.
“It just happened that she ended up in my Stars side, I’m please it happened that way though because I’ve coached Jess for a long time with Confederates, indoor hockey, at state championships and that sort of thing. I’m really proud to see her take the next step.”
Healey admitted she wasn’t expecting the call-up whatsoever, saying she was just pleased to even get a nod in the initial squad.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all, there was so many good goalkeepers there. I’m really excited though,” she said.
“Jess is pretty humble, I don't think she really realises how good she is. That’s a good trait to have though,” Pakinga laughed.
Pakinga, who has worked with state development sides for a few years, was encouraged to apply for the position and did so with the sole hope of expressing her interest, potentially for future years.
“I just thought I’d throw my hat in the ring, start showing interest so they I’d like to be in this kind of role. All of a sudden it was accepted, I wasn’t expecting it at all, so it’s pretty exciting,” she said.
I’ve coached Jess for a long time ... I’m really proud to see her take the next step.Annie Pakinga
“It was definitely a goal, I want to keep climbing the ladder and I’d love to be a head coach of NSW at some stage. This is a step toward that, I guess.”
Last year’s Stars side finished seventh at Perth, a result Pakinga says her outfit – which includes incumbents Lilly Twigg and Alexandra Singleton – has the potential to improve on at Hobart from October 4-10.
“We’ve got a really strong side so I think the girls will do quite well at Hobart, I guess we’ll have to wait and see though,” she said.
Healey said she’s hoping her side can do well, but in a show of her unassuming nature explained her main focus is just going to be to enjoy herself and soak up the experience.
“I just want to have a really great time. I’ll be fine as long as we have fun,” Healey said.
The Stars side also incudes Bathurst’s Macey Fulton, while Bathurst’s Lily Kable and Charlize Fitzpatrick made the Lions outfit.
There’s a host of central west up-and-comers in the boys’ Stars and Lions outfits too, including seven of Parkes’ next generation in Ryan Dunford, Toby Collins, Edward Murray, Jack Skinner, Nathan Marshall, Tom Searl and Joseph Tanswell.