One of the most popular and decorated Hockeyroos of the past decade has played her final match for her country, with Jodie Kenny retiring from international hockey.
After months of deliberation following the 12 month postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, the 33 year old decided to call time on a career that began in 2011 and leaves her eighth on the all-time list for Hockeyroos matches played, having competed 235 times for Australia’s national women’s hockey team. She also scored 111 goals for her country – only Katrina Powell (148 goals) has scored more.
Kenny, who was currently one of the Hockeyroos’ three co-captains, had planned for Tokyo 2020 to be her international swansong, but the impact of COVID has led her to announce a premature sign off.
After becoming a mother in 2017, Kenny has spent the past three years residing in her hometown of Brisbane away from the centralised Hockeyroos program in Perth.
Kenny says the uncertainty of the global pandemic, coupled with the commitment required to compete at an Olympics, plus motherhood and other areas of her life taking precedence brought her to the tough decision that the time was right to move on.
“Making this decision to retire was a mix of everything. Emotions, motivation and uncertainty around what next year will look like with COVID and the extra commitments around travel and quarantine periods,” Kenny said.
“My heart was still wanting to go on and play but my head just wasn’t anymore. I wanted to leave on a high and not keep dragging myself to training if I didn’t have the motivation that’s required and my energy being directed elsewhere.”
“I have been with the Hockeyroos for ten years so it has been a huge part of my life. I’m so passionate about it and I still am, but I just can’t give everything I need to it anymore.”
“I have missed a lot of things from being away with the Hockeyroos but I no longer want to miss those times and that’s when I knew that my priorities were shifting towards having more family time and another child. These things were overpowering everything else.”
The dual Commonwealth Games medallist has is also a two-time Olympian, who was vying to compete at her third Games and claim her first Olympic medal, admits the struggle coming to grips with Tokyo 2020 being pushed back ultimately forced her to choose family ahead of going through another year of preparation.
“Missing the Olympics is a huge disappointment. That is probably what took me six months to make this decision,” Kenny said.
“I had to get over that disappointment and get to the point where I could actually see what I have achieved.
“Going to an Olympics and winning a medal would have been the pinnacle and has been my dream the whole time. For that to be taken away in such random circumstances…it has been such a crazy, emotional year. I’m just trying to take all of the positives out of it.”
“I really wanted to get to Tokyo and I tried physically and emotionally to get myself into the head space to continue. But the Olympics is still a long way away and it’s not just any lead up, it’s an Olympic campaign and it’s extremely intense. You don’t know until you’ve been through one what it actually takes and you’ve got to be one hundred per cent in it and I couldn’t give that anymore.”
Jodie Kenny in action during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
(Chris Hyde/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Current Hockeyroos Coach Paul Gaudoin, who has worked with Kenny since 2017, paid credit to her ability to stay at the top of her game whilst living away from the High Performance base in Perth.
“Jodie Kenny is a supreme athlete…someone who lived and breathed green and gold, wanted to represent her country, play to the best of her ability and leave no stone unturned,” Gaudoin said.
“My experiences with her over the past four years began after she finished in Rio and gave birth to her son. She was keen to come back and she came out and played just under 12 months later and was one of our best players against Spain in January 2018.
“She walked straight back in and just had that fire in her eyes to want to be the best and to win and be competitive. That is something that has been really important for our group…her leadership in that area is something she always brought with her.
“If Jodie commits she commits a hundred per cent. The challenges she had with her life, to be able to still play so well for those years post Rio, being based in Brisbane away from the centralised environment, it is testament to someone who wanted to be the best and do everything right for her family and the national team. In my opinion she epitomises what a Hockeyroo is.”
“Her biggest asset is arguably her mental toughness. She has an uncompromising approach of wanting to win every time she steps out onto the field. That’s the legacy that she leaves for the Hockeyroos for years to come.”
Throughout her career, Kenny endeared herself through performing in big moments on big stages. She scored Australia’s last-gasp equaliser in the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal match which the Hockeyroos went on to win in a shootout, while at the 2018 World Cup quarter finals she was blatantly felled by the Argentinean goalkeeper during the shootout which inspired and spurred on the Hockeyroos to prevail.
Hockey Australia High Performance Director Toni Cumpston believes these qualities and the elite standard Kenny managed to reach after becoming a mother are what stands her apart.
“Jodie’s contribution at set piece plays, whether it be penalty corners, shootouts…when it came to those high-pressure situations you could count on her,” Cumpston said.
“Her longevity and professionalism over a decade, including the ability to have a baby and come back and do what she has done, is not only inspirational for hockey people but inspirational for sportswomen everywhere.
“It is testament to her as a mum and as an athlete and her professionalism that she has been able to do that.”
The FIH Pro League encounter against Argentina in Perth on 7 March 2020 will go down as Kenny’s final Hockeyroos appearance in what was the last time Australia’s national teams played due to the COVID outbreak.