Sport

Australian women’s lacrosse team vice-captain Sarah Mollison on giving back to the sport she loves. By Jack Kerr.
Credit: JACK KERR

Sign of lacrosse: Sarah Mollison, 30, lacrosse player

This was probably my most enjoyable World Cup, on and off the field. [It was held in England in July.] Even finishing fourth, I wouldn’t say it was less enjoyable, and that’s because of how we came together as a team. Yeah, the result was disappointing, but I’m still thankful for all the memories and all the laughs we had.

I think the men are a little bit annoyed that we got invited to the World Games, but they didn’t. That was in Poland, after the World Cup. It’s the first time lacrosse has been invited to the World Games – and it’s the first step to getting into the Olympics. I’d love that, to see lacrosse in the Olympics. Even if it’s not me personally playing. To get lacrosse out there and showing the world how awesome it is would be great.

It’s fast and competitive and skilful. It’s non-contact, but it’s still physical, and there are so many elements to it. You need skill for catching, for throwing, for ground balls, shooting. It’s high-scoring, so it’s entertaining. And because you can go behind the goal, you can score in more ways than in hockey or soccer.

You have to plan your life around the sport. We pay so much money – $10,000 to $12,000 over two years – to play. There’s not really any other travel or family holidays that you can do. You have to invest yourself fully. You’re either all in or you might as well not do it.

My family is very lacrosse orientated. My uncles play. My cousins play. We see each other every weekend. I have family who have coached Australia, played for Australia. We understand it. But for some other girls, yeah, they do struggle trying to balance that. You have friends who get annoyed that you’re always at training. But generally everyone is very supportive. And we are so close as a team that we are almost like a family.

Getting older, it takes longer to recover. We spend longer on the massage table than the younger players. At the same time, we’ve got better conditioning than them. Even if you do get injured, you get your fitness back very quickly, because you’ve had that conditioning.

To get lacrosse into the Olympics, we need to get more countries playing. But we’re working on that. We’ve even got teams from Kenya now. We had Haudenosaunee, [a First Nation] team, in this World Cup. It’s growing in Japan. Also Italy, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, all over Europe. The girls don’t have as many teams as the men, but it’s doubled since I started. And as well as more participation, we tried to put on a good show, make it entertaining, so if they liked it, that can help.

We really need to give back to our sport. Because we are such a small sport, we can’t afford for our best players to just retire and not be around anymore. For girls who go off to college in the US, it’s important that they come back and teach our kids how to play. There are things we get exposed to over there that are important to bring back.  

I’ve been lucky enough to be in teams that have been very successful. With Australia, when I was 18, we won the World Cup in 2005. And then, playing with Maryland in the US, we won the national championship in 2010. They’re the two highest things you can win in women’s lacrosse.

There’s more and more Australian girls going over to play for the US colleges. You get to travel around the US – and you get to study. We don’t have anything like it here. And we do pretty well over there. Many of the girls who have gone over have gone to division 1 colleges. I was the ninth player from Australia to go to Maryland. All the ones who have gone before me are superstars. They’ve captained, they’ve stayed on and coached. We definitely punch above our weight. There’s lots to be proud of. 

People are like, “When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids?” One player has three kids, but I don’t think I’m ready in the next four years, until the next World Cup. Maybe after that. But whatever happens, happens.

 

Holiday highlights…

• Cricket: WBBL/BBL double header – Melbourne Renegades v Brisbane Heat

Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.25pm (AEDT), Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Cricket: The Ashes – Australia v England, 4th Test, day 1

Starts Boxing Day, 10.30am (AEDT), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• Sailing: Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Starts Boxing Day, 1pm (AEDT), Sydney Harbour

• Soccer: W-League/A-League double header – Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers

Monday, January 1, 5.20pm and 7.50pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium, Sydney

• Cycling: Tour Down Under

January 13-21, Adelaide

• Tennis: Australian Open

January 15-28, Melbourne Park

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 23, 2017 as "Sign of lacrosse". Subscribe here.

Jack Kerr
is a journalist and documentary maker.

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