Whether on the hockey pitch or in a courtroom, Kalindi Commerford is someone you want on your team. The 26-year-old Hockeyroo has played nearly 30 games for Australia and scored five goals in international hockey, all the while completing a double degree in law and journalism.
It’s the phone call that most young hockey players will only ever dream of answering. But when selectors tried to reach (then) 23-year-old midfielder Kalindi Commerford, asking her to make her international hockey debut for Australia in 2016, she responded in a way that most athletes would also never dream of: she muted her phone.
NSW south coast-raised Commerford had just returned to her adopted home of Canberra after a two-week national tour representing the ACT in the Australian Hockey League (AHL). Assignments from her law/journalism double degree at the University of Canberra had stacked up while she was away. So, Commerford was busy doing what most undergraduate law students would be on a Monday night. She was catching up on legal readings.
“I had been away for two weeks playing hockey and heavily neglecting uni,” Commerford recalls. “My phone started ringing in the background and I was like, Oh my god, go away, I’m doing uni work!’
“I finally picked up the phone call and it was Edwina Bone [an ACT teammate who already played for the Hockeyroos]. She was like, ‘You’re debuting!’”
Hockey Australia had accidentally left Commerford out of the selection email announcing her international debut. It was an unfortunate twist that meant she was the last person on the team to find out.
In another twist of fate, Commerford had been considering retiring from hockey. She had been overlooked by international selectors for years and that morning had texted her coach to arrange a meeting discussing how she might begin hanging up her shin pads. The meeting was set for Wednesday. The Hockeyroos announced their squad on Monday.
“By that stage, I was pretty content with where I had gotten to with hockey,” Commerford says. “I had played the national league and was studying a law degree. I started working as a paralegal at Moray and Agnew and loved it. I was literally about to quit two days later. Lucky I didn’t!”
Lucky indeed, as Commerford scored the first goal for the Hockeyroos in her debut match – an epic 6-0 win against the New Zealand Black Sticks. She played all six games against New Zealand and India in that 2016 Test series and went on to secure a paid contract with Hockey Australia, moving to Perth to train with the Hockeyroos full time.