Renee Taylor is the defender-turned-midfielder who loves nothing more than running forward and pulling the trigger, and she hopes these characteristics can give the Hockeyroos that something extra as they progress towards the Tokyo Olympics.
The 23 year-old from Brisbane suburb of Everton Park moved into the midfield after the 2018 Commonwealth Games and hasn’t looked back, adding eight goals to her 80 caps.
“I got quite unlucky initially as I broke my thumb first and then while I did my thumb, I did my shoulder, so I was out for about nine months,” Taylor reflects on how the change of position came about.
Rather than get down, she credits the period for helping her improve her aerobic capacity to make the necessary move into the Hockeyroos engine room.
“I spent a lot of time not being able to do anything upper body wise and only being able to run, so I got a good fitness base in which has been quite helpful because I initially joined the elite training environment without that two to three years of preseason.”
But Taylor admits she still has plenty of work to do to catch the likes of leading Hockeyroos runners Jane Claxton, Edwina Bone, Kalindi Commerford and Gabi Nance who she says are the standout top four.
“Jane got a 19.3 score in the yoyo test, while Gabi and Ed were 19.6,” said Taylor.
The no fuss dynamo says she relies on being able to read the play well to appear faster out on the field, while also understanding the team’s changing structures depending on the game’s situation.
“Using a back three and two defensive midfielders coming out of defence is something we’ve toyed with because it just allows us that extra flexibility on the outlet,” said Taylor.
“It allows us to play wide to our defenders, who can then go up the line or cut back in through the midfield and also allow our attacking mids to sit further upfield rather than bringing one back to be a support player.”
“We are mixing up a lot between a back three and back four structure, trying to get the best attacking opportunities we can and improving our fluidity between attacking and defensive midfielders.”
Taylor got forward against Belgium to create several goal scoring opportunities, before being withdrawn from the squad to play Great Britain in game one due to a head knock.
“I got a ball to the head at training that left me a bit wobbly on my feet afterwards and just to be one hundred percent safe I sat out the game for precautionary reasons after fulfilling all the concussion protocols,” said Taylor.
The squad returned to Perth and have just under a month to prepare to protect their world number two ranking in Perth on March 6/7 against Argentina, a side the Hockeyroos defeated in an epic sudden death penalty shootout last year.
“They (Argentina) are skilful, fast, fiery and with the new rankings system there is nothing between us,” said Taylor.
“We drew against them in Argentina last year in a shootout and we lost 1-0 at home in Sydney, but without making excuses, it was played in torrential rain and it took us 36 hours to get from Perth to Sydney.”
“We got one over them in really hot conditions in the Pro League semi final but it was a tough and physical game.”
“It’s super important for us that we can get a loud and big home crowd to the Hockey Centre at Curtin University. It’s spine tingling when the fans are up and about, they make it super exciting and special, plus we have just these games and New Zealand, then we’re at the Olympics.”
Story by Adam Clifford