If it wasn’t for a chance sleepover

Off the back of a strong Premier Hockey League, Anna Crowley is one of two new caps in the Vantage Black Sticks squad. From the famous Crowley sporting family of Taranaki, she may not have ever picked up a hockey stick if it wasn’t for a sleepover at Hope Ralph’s house.

How did you react to being selected for the Vantage Black Sticks?
It was crazy. I wasn’t going to answer the phone as it was an unknown number but I did and Graham (Black Sticks Head Coach Graham Shaw) said it was a “good” phone call.

It was such a surprise. I was lost for words and I think I said to Graham something like “actually” in case he’d got it wrong. It was a dream come true and I burst into tears as soon as I got off the phone.

I Facetimed Mum and Dad straight away. I was very teary so Mum thought something bad had happened, and I said no they’re happy tears. After I told them they shed a few tears as well. It was such a special moment as all my brothers were there and the family was all together.

Going into the Sentinel Homes Premier Hockey League I had no inkling at all. I just wanted to get into the Performance Network.

You’ve looked up to many of the current Vantage Black Sticks and even had selfies with a couple of them as a teenager. How was that first day at Black Sticks training?
I was very nervous walking up the stairs at training but everyone gave me a big hug and welcomed me. The older girls have been so welcoming and what’s really great is that there’s a good core of young players at the moment. I’m just keen to learn and develop as much as possible.

When the Vantage Black Sticks started training in January they hadn’t been together since March 2020 and now there’s been two lockdowns in Auckland. How weird have the first couple of months been?
It was cool to be together for a whole month before the first lockdown. We’d just got off Sir Owen Glenn’s boat after watching the Prada Cup for a day. Holly and Hope (fellow Black Sticks Holly Pearson and Hope Ralph) and I left Auckland around 9pm and we got home around 2.30am. It was a big drive.

The lockdown disruption has been difficult but our leaders (management and experienced players) have been awesome. They’re always checking in to see if we’re OK and that we know what we should be doing.

While we were all home we got together in Palmerston North for three days of training – all the girls from Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu.

You played loads of different sports as a teenager but were enticed into hockey after a sleepover at Hope Ralph’s place. What made you choose hockey?
I’ve known Hope since I was four and when I was about 10 I was having a sleepover at her place and her Mum asked me to fill in for the hockey team the next day. I was already playing a thousand sports – netball, rugby, cricket, squash, tennis, swimming – so when we asked my Mum, she said I was doing enough sport.

Anyway I played in the game, ended up in a Taranaki trial and so we had to confess to Mum. She said “Righty ho Anna – you’re playing hockey now.”

I’ve gone on and played with Hope and Holly at Sacred Heart Girls’ College, for Taranaki age group teams, and for New Zealand Under-18 and Under-21.

The Crowley name is sporting royalty in the ‘naki. Was there pressure on you to play at the top level?
It hasn’t been like that – there was no pressure at all. Mum and Dad just wanted us to go out and have fun. They’ve given us such a great life and they’re always so supportive. They’ve gone the extra miles or done an extra milking to get us there.

I suppose sport runs in the family with Mum playing netball for Taranaki, Dad playing rugby for Taranaki and for New Zealand Sevens, and my brother Logan also plays Mitre 10 Cup rugby.

Mum and Dad have always been there for me and it was a no brainer that they would be the first people I’d call when I got selected. Mum helps with the emotional side of things and Dad with sporting advice like “keep a cool head”.

You’re now flatting on Auckland’s North Shore with Hope, Holly and five others but your roots are in the family dairy farm at Pungarehu, 40 minutes south of New Plymouth.
I don’t really like the big city so it’s great being in Milford just five minutes from the beach. When we get a week’s break I head home and love getting out on the farm – driving the tractor, drenching the calves, mulching the paddocks and milking the cows.

Like many of the girls who come off a farm I think it makes you not only physically tough but more resilient as well.

  • April 12th, 2021 in
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