Bundy duo begin African adventure
TEN months of anticipation and dreaming of donning the treasured green and gold has finally arrived for Bundaberg teenagers Brittany Cramer and Rebecca Kirchner.
Cramer and Kirchner will represent their country as part of the Australian Under-16 Schoolgirls hockey team which departs for a 14-day tour of South Africa on Thursday.
Both girls earned selection through their performances at last year's national championships in August, and since then they have been counting down the days until their overseas odyssey begins.
"It's definitely very exciting to know you're going to represent your country," Cramer said.
"It's taken so long to arrive, and I bet the trip is going to be over very quickly, so you've got the make the most of it."
The team will assemble in Perth, before they travel to South Africa for the first of two practice matches against local opposition.
It will then be on to the town of Pietermaritzburg, where the side will play three Test matches in just four days against the South African Youth team.
While both girls stood out as part of the Queensland team which finished second at last year's national titles, Shalom College student, Cramer said she expects the standard of play to be at a level she has never experienced before.
"Even though we played against the best in our age group in Australia, this will be something different again," Cramer said.
"It's going to be very fast, but hopefully in the warm-up games we can get used to the pace of it."
With members of the squad far flung across the country, a group training session has been nigh on impossible to organise.
However, Kirchner believed an eight-strong New South Wales (NSW) contingent would ensure the side would gel well.
"There was a training camp initially planned, but with everyone in different states, and finishing Year 12, it was pretty hard to do," Kirchner said.
"But at the nationals the NSW girls played really well together, and they form most of the forward line, so the combinations should be pretty good by the time the first Test match arrives."
The Rum City has long been recognised as a hotbed for producing marvellous hockey players, such as current Kookaburra and Olympic Gold medallist Troy Elder, and Kepnock High student, Kirchner said it was amazing to think Bundaberg had two representatives in one national team at the one time.
"It's pretty cool to have both Britt and myself in the side - especially when we got more in the team than Brisbane!" Kirchner said.
"It'll be good to have someone I know there, and I think it'll help both of us play better."
Despite the long, agonising wait since both knew this day would arrive, the nerves are sure to tingle if they are selected to stand out on the pitch to hear Advance Australia Fair echo around the ground.
Kirchner described the moment as "the realisation of dream."
"I can imagine I'll feel a lot of pride, and I'll certainly want to do my country proud," Kirchner said.
"I don't think it's really set in yet that this will happen, but when I'm over there it's going to kick in."
In any overseas sporting excursion, performing at the best of one's abilities is always the aim, but getting out and seeing the sights is also a must.
And there's also that other thing girls love to do - go shopping!
"There's not much in Bundy, so I bet I'll be doing a fair bit of that," Cramer said.