The newest piece in our My Favourite Sporting Moment series, Mikahlia Holmes shifts our focus to the Mighty Jills, and their 2020 world championship win.
This year has given me a lot of time to sit and reflect on my favourite sporting moments, maybe it was a cathartic yearning to feel something sports related during lockdown.
There are lots of contenders; watching with bated breath in the early hours of the morning to find out the hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, cheering Kendall Coyne Schofield on as she became the first woman to compete in the NHL skills test, seeing Kim Ng become the first female general manager in the MLB or anytime Sam Kerr or Ellyse Perry stepped onto the field.
But I think my favourite sporting moment happened earlier this year, 16,000 kilometres from home in the early hours of a Monday morning.
It was watching through bleary eyes, the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey Team lift gold at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Reykjavík, Iceland in February earlier this year.
For something that happened so far away (and so early in the morning) it could be hard to see why this one moment would be my favourite.
But for the past two years I’ve spent most weekends of my summer, tucked away in a little booth in the corner of Hunter Ice Skating Stadium. I share the booth with 4 others while we pull in feeds from a camera operator from other ice rinks around Australia.
I volunteer with a small team who give up their time, skills and equipment to ensure all games of the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League (AWIHL) are live streamed.
The stuffy booth, the early starts, late finishes and the long days are worth it to know we are bringing fans around the world coverage of the AWIHL. The community around the league is one of the most supportive and positive I’ve ever encountered.
Whilst a majority of the viewers are dedicated fans, I’ll grant that there are some viewers who are intrigued, mainly by the ‘Australian’ part.
The season runs from October to February with 5 teams and we see every game. We get to see the friendships grow, the rivalries intensify, and the talent develop!
Watching each team play 12 games, we all get to know the players well. Whether it is their style of play, their chirps from the bench or the penalty box or just their personality through media grabs and interviews.
We develop this weird, one-sided friendship where you know so much about a player without ever having met them.
Now if you’re new to ice sports in Australia, welcome! It’s addictive, fast-paced and always exciting. But also underfunded, even more-so for the women.
One of the most exciting parts of our work, in providing live streams of each game, was eliminating the need for scouts to travel over the country for National team selection. This cost is typically passed onto selected players.
With limited Olympic funding, all female National team players need to raise their own funds to represent the country, travel and attend training camps. To know our work was helping this in a small way was pretty rewarding.
With the National team selected and on their way to Reykjavík, it was exciting to know that I would be able to see all of my favourite players on the same team.
The entire tournament was great to watch with the first game against Iceland with the home crowd. The Mighty Jills won 6-1 before facing up to Turkey next.
The Turkish national team had a familiar face, with Sera Dogramaci from the Sydney Sirens in the crease. Australia won, just, in their closest game of the tournament. The winning streak continued against Croatia and Ukraine before coming up to the nail-biting gold medal game.
The gold medal game was against the New Zealand Ice Ferns, who came out to win and were first on the board. Australia worked hard and came back to win 7-1 and sweep the tournament.
Our production team got together and watched a few of the games in the early hours of the morning, and when we weren’t physically together, we would keep in touch with a group chat.
“Did you see Michelle Clark-Crumpton is the leading goal scorer?”
“I still can’t believe Olivia is only 15 and just came away with best goaltender for the tournament!”
It was also during this tournament that I learnt why the Australian Women’s team was named The Mighty Jills. The Men’s team had already named themselves The Mighty Roos (yes it’s 100% named after the Mighty Ducks) and Jills was the natural, Australian equivalent.
Seeing the gold medals hanging from the player’s necks as they beamed on the ice, every long day in the stuffy booth was worth it.