Hockey player Jessica Kelly has been nominated for junior sportswoman of the year. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Striker sets sights on Black Sticks

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Jessica Kelly hopes to follow the path of her idol, Black Stick Anita Punt.

Like Anita, Jessica is a born and bred Nelsonian but bet on herself by moving to Wellington to further her promising hockey career.

The gamble paid off and Jessica soon found herself playing for the capital U21 side where her form then earned her selection to the New Zealand U21s.

“I was a bit shocked as I’m still only 18, I wasn’t expecting it at all.”

These accolades have seen Jessica receive a first-ever nomination for junior sportswoman of the year at the ASB Nelson Sports Awards.

The Waimea College alumnus has been playing the game since she was fouryears-old.

Though she admits it wasn’t really hockey, “we would just run around aimlessly”.

“My best friend started playing and I wanted to do what she was doing.”

Her talent eventually became apparent and she was soon fast tracked into the Nelson and Tasman sides.

“I have had great coaches in Nelson and my parents have always backed me 100 per cent. Moving to Welly was a risk, but they supported me.”

Jessica says she has made friends all around New Zealand, playing the sport she loves. “That would be my favourite part.”

Jessica says her strength on the pitch sets her apart. “I bring quite a dominant presence; I think it’s just the way I’m built and I’m not afraid of a bit of contact.”

She hopes to maintain her spot in the U21 side and go to the Junior World Cup in 2020, and possibly emulate the success of New Zeeland’s highest-ever goal scorer.
“When I was growing up, Anita [Punt] made such a big statement when she entered the Black Sticks. And Kelsey Smith, she just has so much grit to her, coming from such small towns with not as many opportunities as someone from Auckland.”

Thanks to the careers of these women, Jessica’s goal remains clear.

“One day, I want to become a Black Stick.”