Blyth leading Hockeyroos into battle for World Cup spot
MADONNA Blyth does not remember much of her senior international debut at the 2004 Champions Trophy in Argentina.
Almost 250 caps and a decade in the top flight of women's hockey can dull the specifics of memory.
But she does remember the feeling in the pit of her tummy where nerves were doing the tango with excitement, she remembers the pride of running on in the green and gold and the goose bumps she got when she heard the roar from the grandstand.
It is the same feeling she gets all these years later, the same bursts of exhilaration as adrenalin masks the fear on the eve of a major campaign.
The Hockeyroos captain will lead her team in the World League tournament in London, starting with a match against Spain on Saturday, with the aim of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Her mind will also be on her 250th cap which will come, if all goes according to plan, in the second pool match against England on Sunday.
"Two games is a long time and I don't like to get too ahead of myself," Blyth laughed.
"But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. When I think about that number of caps I feel quite humbled really."
Things have changed a lot since Blyth first pulled on a representative shirt.
There is marginally more money in the women's game with resources now given over to state-of-the-art training facilities and top sports care professionals.
"When I first started, training only really happened before a big tournament, or more full-time in an Olympic year - now we are pretty much on a full-time basis," she said.
"Being able to train and play a lot together, it improves your game, you learn more about each other and you play better as a team."
The midfielder's game has lost little to the years, if anything it is even quicker with head coach Adam Commens demanding a physical fast-paced offensive.
But it has also been a case of training and playing smarter as she looks to remain at the top of her game.
"You know I think I am probably in the best shape of my life," Blythe said.
"I'm preparing well both mentally and physically and working really had to continue to be the best player I can be."
You would think that it would be difficult to stay motivated when playing sport at an elite level for so long, that it would become, dare we say it, almost like a job. But for Blythe the competitive spirit remains well alight.
She had time off after the last year's Olympics to recharge the batteries, spending time with family and friends in Queensland and used the break to think about and reassess her goals.
"Rio 2016 is still a long-term goal for me," she said.
"Staying fit, working hard and making sure I am still good enough to be selected for those Games is what drives me to perform."
PLAYER FACT FILE
Name: Madonna Blyth
Born: 30 November, 1985
Club: Queensland Scorchers
- Captain of the Hockeyroos since 1999.
- Has played 248 internationals for Australia with career highlights including two Olympic Games (Beijing and London), a silver medal at the 2006 World Cup in Madrid and gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and Delhi.
- Made her senior international debut as an 18-year-old at the 2004 Champions Trophy in Argentina.
- Started playing hockey when she was 5 and burst onto the representative scene as a 15-year-old winning gold with her team in the 2001 Australian Youth Olympic Festival.