stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
With the commencement of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Parkes Library history blog will focus on Olympians from the Parkes Shire. Each post will provide a snapshot of the sportsmen and sportswomen who have worn the green and gold and called the Parkes Shire home at some point of their lives. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games saw two former Parkes Shire residents making their Olympic debut. This post focuses on the Hockeyroo Mariah Williams. There are a number of firsts for Mariah Williams. She is the first female from the Parkes Shire to represent Australia in a team sport at the Olympic Games. Williams is also the first Indigenous person from the Parkes Shire to go to an Olympic Games.
Mariah was born in Parkes on 31st May, 1995. Her rise to selection in the Hockeyroos team for Rio Olympics has been an inspirational one. Like many Olympians, Mariah excelled in a number of sports. She was handed a hockey stick at age four. Growing up in Parkes she was fortunate to have former triple Olympian Stephen Davies (aka the Maradona of hockey) visit her school, Middleton Public School, to pass on the Olympic vision. However Mariah was born without a ligament in the back of the knee. At the tender age of 21, she has already had four operations – including one earlier this year! There were injury concerns which meant she might possibly miss making the Olympic team. Fortunately Mariah recovered to be able to play in the International Champions Trophy in Great Britain in June 2016. Williams has determination and drive in abundance and despite being out of the game she loves for over a year and a half, has dedicated herself to rehabilitation and improving her fitness. This involved lots of swimming, boxing, bike riding and upper-body work. Mariah’s physical injuries were not the only obstacle to her reaching her hockey goals. At age 13, Mariah left Parkes and moved to Newcastle to be in a more competitive and focused environment. She attended Hunter Sports High School. Mariah plays for the Souths club in the Newcastle Premier League.
Parkes is known for its strong hockey coaching ethos, and this is certainly evident in Mariah’s experience:
Once again the Middleton Public School’s hockey team, under the guidance of Mrs Robin Dean, showed off just how much skill they have by winning the Western Final and making it through to the State Quarter Final of the NSWPSSA Knockout Competition. Middleton has been in the Western Final for the past seven years and Mariah has been a key member for the past four years. Not only did she play a crucial role as centre-half in this team scoring numerous goals, but she also played an important role helping the team to achieve its 10th successive victory in the Parkes Interschool Lois Jones Cup Competition. Source: Dean, A. (2008, February 5). DET NSW School Sports Unit. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from http://www.sports.det.nsw.edu.au/latest_news/year_2008/008.htm
The same year Mariah travelled to Adelaide, part of the NSW PSSA Hockey team that finished 2nd at the Australian School Sports Carnival. Mariah was an integral part of the team, recognised for her technique, teamwork and sportsmanship. Further success followed when at the 2007 Middleton Public School Awards night she was named 2007 Western Area PSSA Junior Sportsperson of the Year. Andrew Dean explains just how momentous this accolade was for Mariah to receive it:
The significance of this award can not only be seen through Mariah being the first female recipient of this award in Parkes, but also through this award being presented to only one student in Western Area from Year 3 to Year 9. Source: Dean, A. (2008, February 5). DET NSW School Sports Unit. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from http://www.sports.det.nsw.edu.au/latest_news/year_2008/008.htm
While 2008 saw Mariah going to Parkes High School, she was offered a spot in Hunter Sports High School’s Talented Sport Program. While leaving home was difficult, it allowed Mariah to fully concentrate on hockey and she made the Hunter Sports High School TSP Hall of Fame in 2012 (Australian U17 Womens Hockey team) and 2013 (Australian Open Womens Hockey team) Source: “Hunter Sports High School | Hall of Fame.” Hall of Fame. Talented Sport Program, n.d. Retrieved 15 July 2016, from http://www.hunterspt-h.schools.nsw.edu.au/talented-sports-program/hall-of-fame
Mariah’s time at Hunter Sports High School was an exciting one, with selection in the Under 17 Womens Hockey team in 2012 and then selection to the senior side (aka the Hockeyroos) in 2013 Source: Leeson, Josh. “Delight for Mariah after Hockeyroos Call-up.” Newcastle Herald. N.p., 17 Apr. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Aug. 2016 from http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1440213/delight-for-mariah-after-hockeyroos-call-up/
In 2013, Mariah also won the 2013 Deadly Awards Most Promising New Talent in Sport Source: “Mariah’s Big Move – Deadly Vibe.” Deadly Vibe. N.p., 07 Nov. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 July 2016 from http://www.deadlyvibe.com.au/2013/11/mariahs-big-move/
In 2016 Mariah was named the Parkes Sportsperson of the Year for 2015 Source: http://www.parkeschampionpost.com.au/story/3687605/mariah-named-best-in-2015/ It was hoped that this award, announced Australia Day 2016, would not have a jinxing effect on Mariah’s Olympic aspirations. While many in both Parkes and Newcastle were optimistic for Mariah’s chances of making the squad, it was not a fait accompli. The first obstacle was another injury for Mariah to overcome. Displaying maturity beyond her years, Mariah completed her rehabilitation program and was announced fit to play for the Hockeyroos in the International Champions Trophy in Great Britain in June 2016. Not only did Mariah manage to take part but she scored against USA as the Hockeyroos finished 4th. An anxious wait until the final announcement of the Hockeyroos Olympic squad however Mariah was one who made the team Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4008415/newcastles-mariah-williams-gets-ticket-to-rio-with-hockeyroos/
Mariah’s Olympic debut was highly anticipated in the Parkes Shire and her efforts were lauded by not just locals. On the Hockey Australia website in the Fanzone section, members of the public could vote for the Most Valued Player (MVP) for each match the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos played in the Rio Olympic Games. Mariah received MVP accolades for two games – Hockeyroos vs USA and Hockeyroos vs Japan – and was runner-up to Jane Claxton in the Hockeyroos vs India match. Source: http://www.hockey.org.au/fanzone
It is hoped that this is just the first Olympics of a long and successful sporting career for Mariah Williams.
ParkesHistory will continue to follow Mariah’s hockey career and hopefully it will be a long and successful one. The latest on Mariah is an article in the Newcastle Herald highlighting her selection in the upcoming Junior World Cup in Chile. The Junior World Cup starts November 24 and concludes December 4, giving Parkes Shire residents another event to cheer on an Australian team featuring a former resident. For more information including photographs of Mariah with Usain Bolt, click here
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:
If you have stories or memories that you are willing to share about Mariah Williams or any of the other Olympians of the Parkes Shire , please contact Parkes Shire Library via firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.