Abbey McCuloch: Life on the Road

by frank-stuart
26JUN

One of the perks of being an elite athlete with the NSW Swifts is the abundance of away trips. This year alone I have been to New Zealand three times as all well as the major cities of Australia. Today I am going to bring you along for the ride. It’s round 13 and we are off to Melbourne for the weekend to take on the Vixens in a must win match. A win on Sunday and we have all but secured ourselves a place in the finals; lose and our hopes are hedged on a must-win game over in Perth next weekend.

photo_blog_2It’s just a quick trip, one night in iconic Melbourne, which makes it easy to pack for. Uniform, shoes, playing dress and some casual clothes for dinner on Saturday night. It’s a big process getting all of us on the plane, not only are there 12 athletes, but our coach, 2 assistance coaches, a physiotherapist, video analysis guru and all the bags that accompany them. But the most important person of all is our manager whose job it is to look after us all, get us to where we need to be at the right time and most importantly feed us.

photo_blog_3Time at the airport is always well spent in the Virgin Australia Lounge where the coffee is free flowing and the Wi-Fi is free and fast. But the best thing about idle time at the airport is the people you run into – even more amazing when they know who we are and how important this game is for our season. This week it was Kurt Fearnley – three time Paralympic Gold Medalist – who was kind and humble enough to wish us luck and take a few fan girl photos.

As soon as we land we rush to collect our bags, which include individual bags, netballs, physiotherapist tables and kit bags, which are full of the good stuff – lollies and snacks. We’re lucky enough to be staying at the Novotel on Collins Street, right in the mix of Melbourne’s vibrant city life and it’s our next stop. Just a quick one though; we need to drop our bags and get changed for our last training run before the game on Sunday.

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I’ve never played at Margret Court Arena before and I am amazed at the scale of the venue, as was our video analysis guy who managed to get us lost trying to find Gate D. That and the fact that there have been many amazing sportsmen and women out on centre court before us made it an awesome experience – and that was before 7000 odd people piled in to watch us play.

After a pool session back at the hotel we are set free to do as we please, which for the majority of us consisted of googling the closest Italian restaurant and filling up on pasta and pizza, before turning in early.

Suddenly game day is upon us, and instead of wasting the day sitting around the hotel, I kidnap three of my teammates and we take to the streets. We set out to find the famous ‘Graffiti Lane’, which after questioning some locals and a couple of wrong turns we finally stumble upon and let me tell you it was well worth the hike.

The artwork is intricate, diverse and keeps us entertained for easily 20 minutes. Usually we don’t get the luxury of exploring so when we aren’t playing until the afternoon we all try and get out and see a bit, shop some and enjoy the local atmosphere before they turn on us at the courts.

Before long, I’m waking up from a quick nap, throwing myself into a cold shower and pulling on my dress. It’s game time and an important one at that. Life in this season’s competition is on the line. The stadium is packed, loud and full of people willing us to lose. But today, it is all about the NSW Swifts as we fight through a last minute surge from the Vixens to secure a 4 goal win.

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Warm down, media, autographs, ice baths, showers and a quick debrief of the game happens within an hour of the final whistle before we are ushered back on our buses to get to the airport in time for our 7:30pm flight home. It may have been brief, but with another 2 points on the board, a secure spot in the finals and the chance to play for a home elimination final next week, it was worth it. But at the end of the day, I’m happy to be home to beautiful Sydney.


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