The Tale Behind the Australian Olympian with a Lacrosse Stick
The photo popped up in my Facebook news feed yesterday morning thanks to a pair of likes from a Welsh friend and Turkiye Lakros. It was unmistakable – the cobalt blue field with hot pink sideline areas of Riverbank Arena, one of the venues for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Also unmistakable: the man in the Australian warm-up gear was wielding a lacrosse stick, not a field hockey stick. Lacrosse! In the Olympics! Sort of! I shared it on Lacrosse Magazine's Facebook page and it's already been viewed by over 11,000 users.
So who is that mysterious would-be laxer, you ask? Hockey Australia, the national governing body of the sport, identified him as Graham Reid, assistant coach of the men’s national field hockey team. Reid played for Australia himself in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, earning a silver medal in the latter. (The other man pictured is Paul Gaudoin, another assistant.)
The team uses the lacrosse stick to retrieve the balls and throw them back during warm-ups, according to Hockey Australia. They aren’t the only ones. Vivienne Parker-White, vice president of the Australian Lacrosse Association, got a few inquiries from hockey clubs in the Canberra area asking where they could buy lacrosse sticks for use in training.
“Using a lacrosse stick means they can propel the hockey ball faster and I gather more accurately during training sessions for goalies and particularly warm up sessions for the goalies. I'm told that a few of the international teams do this,” Parker-White said.
She added that Australian cricket teams have also used lacrosse sticks for training and warm-ups.
The photo of Reid was taken and posted to Facebook by Andrew Abbey, who is affiliated with the Welwyn Lacrosse Club. It's from the warm-ups before Australia's 6-0 rout of South Africa on July 30.
Abbey, 51, is from Hertforshire, a village just north of London. He got involved in the Welwyn Club when his son Ollie, now 17, started playing six years ago. The Abbeys have served as hosts for Lacrosse Development Officers, a club program that allows former NCAA lacrosse players to spend a year living and coaching in England.
Abbey and his family have made the London Games their summer vacation, with great results. Said Abbey: "The Games have been so much more than I could ever have dreamed of. In the UK we usually talk ourselves down and our press is probably the worst in the world for knocking all the good things about our great country. We we arrived at the Olympic Park, before the hockey, after coming through security you walk towards the main stadium, past the swim centre and water polo complex. As we walked along; it raised the hairs on the back on my neck and I had a lump in my throat, it was just the most amazing feeling seeing all the wonderful arenas waiting for the worlds best athletes to give their best after four years of hard, hard work. And best of all it was in our back yard and we had done it! So proud of all those involved in bring the Games to the UK...We all just love our sport, the BBC is running about 25 channels covering all the sports every day, you just don't know what to watch! The crowds have been amazing friendly, cheering every athlete from which ever country they're from, just having the time of their lives. This really is the experience of a lifetime."
Team Australia is currently ranked No. 1 in the world by the International Hockey Federation and is a gold medal hopeful in London. The Australians have medaled in each of the last five Olympic Games, but only won the gold once, in 2004. They won bronze in Beijing in 2008. They are 3-2 in London and are at the top of the Group A rankings. They will face Germany in the semifinals on August 9.