When the family of a Commonwealth Games debutante realized they couldn’t make it to Birmingham, they brought Birmingham to them.
Mackay’s Claire Colwill only joined the Hockeyroos this year after years of representing Mackay and Queensland.
At every major tournament, her 92-year-old grandmother is cheering from the sidelines.
But the long journey and the lingering threat of COVID kept Jill Loughnan at home on the Sunshine Coast, where her family has set up their own Games Village to cheer for Australia.
“During Claire’s hockey career, my mother and I have been able to travel with her while she played for Queensland and that was a very special time for us,” said Colwill’s mother, Sara.
“We were lucky enough to be there to see her debut for Australia in New Zealand.
“One of the things [Granny] has always enjoyed coming on hockey trips is the company and being a part of it.”
Sara said the family watched the Games live and replays from the comfort of her mother’s living room.
“I’m sure there will be lots of cups of tea and Devonshire tea and all the British things to create the Birmingham theme.”
‘I have two goals in life’
Claire knew from an early age that she wanted to be an Australian hockey player.
“When she was about nine, we were learning to hit the lawns and she came up to me and said very clearly, ‘Mom, I have two goals in life – I’m going to be a Hockeyroo and I’m going to run against Usain Bolt,” said Sara.
She said her 20-year-old daughter had always been very focused; the second-year university student combines international sport with her studies.
“She had to do one of her exams online from the Netherlands while she was away just before the World Cup started.
“She just set up a really good timetable and mapped everything out… so she knows exactly what to do.”
Speaking to the ABC when she was first named to the Hockeyroos squad, Colwill said it was a dream come true.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid, and every training session builds it up to this moment,” she said.
“Starting back with school hockey in Mackay…it all comes down to where I am now.”
Proud family of supporters
While most of Colwill’s family will be in the Proxy Games village on the Sunshine Coast, her older brother, Tim, is in Birmingham cheering from the sidelines.
Sara said her two children grew up close and maintained a strong bond.
“They may not say that, but they are,” she laughed.
“He actually has a T-shirt on with a picture of Claire in her hockey uniform on the front, and on the back it says ‘Colwill #1 supporter’.
“Number one is actually Claire’s playing number too.”
Although Birmingham was the first major tournament Sara and her mother Claire would not watch from the sidelines, she said she doubted it would make her daughter nervous.
“She has always been very independent and the group is so supportive. It’s just one big family.
“I think she just loves every minute of it and just wouldn’t want to be anywhere else… she just seems to be thriving.”
Colwill and the Hockeyroos face gold tonight after defeating India in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals.