Flying Officer Riley Smith started her hockey career at age four, running on for the Railway Greys at Albion Park.
CAPTION: Flying Officer Riley Smith, right, at the Singapore Sports Hub with NSW Country hockey players Clare Bosman and Millie Leard. Story by Corporal Veronica O’Hara. Photo by Flying Officer Riley Smith.
Fast forward 20 years, she was on the Australian side during a tour of Singapore and Malaysia.
Growing up in the “big country hockey town” of Albion Park, NSW, her whole family played hockey as a regular weekend event.
Flying Officer Smith went on to represent Australia on a South Africa tour with an Australian school girls’ team at age 17.
After finishing university with a degree in exercise science she realised she wanted a different challenge.
She joined the Royal Australian Air Force after the role of a logistics officer caught her attention on Defence’s website.
Her hockey career continued after joining, taking to the field on ADF’s representative team at last year’s Hockey Australia Country Championships in Albany, WA.
During Australian Defence Force Academy training, she debuted with the Canberra Chill.
Her stellar performance for the ADF in Albany caught the selectors’ eye and she was chosen to tour Singapore and Malaysia with the Hockey Australia Country Senior women’s team, the Wattles.
Flying Officer Smith finished her logistics officer initial training in Wagga Wagga with 15 hours to spare before commencing the tour.
The Wattles won six, lost two and drew one game across three cities.
Due to the local teams observing Ramadan, many games were played late at night.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Wattles experienced their toughest clash, losing 4-3 in an exciting game against the Malaysian Senior Women.
“Considering we’d only played four games and met each other a week prior, and they’re internationally ranked, we put up a great fight,” Flying Officer Smith said.
Final games were against a Dutch expatriate team and the Malaysian U21’s team, which narrowly beat the Wattles 2-1.
The Wattles and men’s team Venom held coaching clinics for children in both countries.
About 12 girls attended in Singapore, then about 30 at Melaka, including some who drove long distances to attend.
Despite a hot morning during Ramadan, children of four to 15 years old excitedly ran around learning new skills, Flying Officer Smith said.
“I don’t think they’ve had exposure to quality coaching, so it was rewarding to be able to show them,” she said.
With her logistics training completed, Flying Officer Smith is now preparing for Exercise Talisman Sabre in July and is excited to see how her role operates on the job.