The West

Smith rides the fast lane to London
Emily Smith, 19, has had a rapid rise from country hockey to the Olympics. Pic: Steve Ferrier/WA News

It has been a massive leap from playing country hockey on grass to the Olympics for teenager Emily Smith but she has the star qualities the Hockeyroos need to be among the medal contenders in London.

Smith will be the youngest in the team at 19 but has been a potent scorer in 29 games for Australia - a remarkable achievement given that she played her first game on artificial turf when she moved from Crookwell in NSW's Southern Tablelands to the AIS in Perth last year.

She had never trained for hockey until last year and now rates as one of the best in the team aerobically, while possessing sufficient speed and agility to enhance her ability as a scorer.

Coach Adam Commens said her performance had been remarkable over the past nine months since being plucked out of under-age hockey.

"She has been scoring consistently against top nations and has been one of our best contributors in most areas," he said. "She can be the X-factor when we arrive in London."

Smith said her selection for London had been a massive shock.

"I did not expect it but I have worked very hard to give myself a chance - so from that point of view it has been a wonderful reward," she said.

"Adam has developed a young group and helped them make the most of their potential."

Commens said his squad may lack the required consistency in London, but the Games would be an opportunity to develop its ability.

"I have said all along it is going to be a battle to have all our players skilful enough to execute advanced skills consistently at a high speed," he said.

"It will take years, and not the 18 months we have had, to get these players to the upper echelon of international hockey and the young players will grow and get stronger."

He has been pleased with the progression as they spend their final week in Perth preparing for the Olympics.

Commens believes the Hockeyroos have the ability to topple any of the top-ranked teams, having had a relatively stable group of players with just two significant injuries in the past six months.

The West Australian

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