Recently Ice Hockey Australia released a statement announcing the formation of the 2013 national women’s U18 team, the first ever for Australia. The creation of this team and its associated training camps are a welcome addition to our current women’s development programs.
The performance of the Australian women’s national team on the world stage is on the rise. They have worked their way from Division III to Division II Group A at the IIHF Women’ World Championships over the last ten years.
In the last two world championship tournaments they finished in the silver medal position. Then in 2012 Australia saw its first Olympic medal in ice hockey when Sharnita Crompton finished 3rd in the skills competition at the junior winter Olympics.
In forming the U18 women’s program, Ice Hockey Australia has identified an important step to continuing the improvement of the women’s national team and the AWIHL. Targeting the development of young players is a crucial aspect of taking any program to the next level.
According to the press release by IHA, the training squad for the team was formed after a talent identification camp in September last year. All registered girls between the ages of 12 and 18 in the country were invited and were put through testing of all aspects of skills required to be a competitive hockey player.
These annual camps also allow more opportunities for players too young for the national team and AWIHL teams to grow their skillset. By attending these camps specifically geared toward female players the girls are able to get an idea of what is required to be that elite level female player, and set goals accordingly.
A training squad was formed after the initial camp, and from that squad the U18 team was selected after a second camp from the 13th to the 19th of January. This selection is not the final team, five spots for skaters and two for goalies are still open. The final decision regarding these spots will be made in the near future after further monitoring of the progress of the rest of the squad.
Notable players on the team include the AWIHL Brisbane Goannas standout Tiffany Samain-Venning, and Katie Tihema of the Adelaide Adrenaline. South Australia is the most represented state on this squad, with six skaters on the team so far.
The team will be introduced to international competition through participation in regional youth tournaments. The intent is to qualify the team for the IIHF U18 world championships in the future, creating internationally experienced athletes to feed the women’s national team.