Commonwealth Games.  Claire Colwill's family created their own Games village to cheer on the Hockeyroos

Commonwealth Games. Claire Colwill’s family created their own Games village to cheer on the Hockeyroos

When the family of a Commonwealth Games debutante realized they couldn’t make it to Birmingham, they brought Birmingham to them.

Mackay’s Claire Colwill only joined the Hockeyroos this year after years of representing Mackay and Queensland.

Through every major tournament, her 92-year-old grandmother has been there cheering from the sidelines.

But the long journey and the lingering threat of COVID meant Jill Loughnan stayed home on the Sunshine Coast, where her family has set up their own Games Village to cheer on Australia.

“Through Claire’s hockey career, my mum and I have been able to travel with her as she’s played for Queensland and that’s been a really special time for us,” Colwill’s mother, Sara, said.

Claire Colwill with her granny Jill Loughnan and mother Sara at her Hockeyroos debut.(Supplied: Sara Colwill)

“We were lucky to be there to see her debut for Australia in New Zealand.

“One of the things [Granny] has always enjoyed about coming on hockey trips is the company and being part of it.”

Sara said the family had been watching the Games live and the replays from the comfort of her mother’s living room.

“I’m sure there’ll be lots of cups of tea and Devonshire teas and all things British to create the Birmingham theme.”

“I’ve got two goals in life”

A young girl on a hockey field, with a black, white and yellow uniform, running and smiling.
Claire Colwill represented Mackay, Capricornia and Queensland as a junior.(Supplied: Sara Colwill)

From a young age, Claire knew she wanted to be an Australian hockey player.

“When she was about nine, we were on the grass fields learning to hit and she came up to me and said very clearly, ‘Mum, I’ve two goals in life — I’m going to be a Hockeyroo and I’m going to run against Usain Bolt’,” Sara said.

She said her 20-year-old daughter had always been very focused; the second-year university student is balancing international sports with her studies.

“She had to do one of her exams online from the Netherlands while she was away just before the World Cup started.

“She’s just set up a really good timetable and mapped it all out … so she knows exactly what she’s got to do.”

Members of the Australian women's hockey team pose with bronze medals, holding bouquets of flowers.
Claire Colwill (center front) claimed her first World Cup medal in May when the Hockeyroos took bronze.(Twitter: Hockeyroos)

Speaking to the ABC when she was first named in the Hockeyroos squad, Colwill said it was a dream come true.

“It’s something you dream of as a kid, and every training session, it builds towards this moment,” she said.

“Starting back in school hockey in Mackay … it all adds up to where I am today.”

Proud family of supporters

A young man standing in front of a white wall, wearing a yellow shirt with a picture of a hockey player.
Colwill’s brother Tim has traveled from Ipswich to Birmingham.(Supplied: Sara Colwill)

While most of Colwill’s family will be at the proxy Games village on the Sunshine Coast, her older brother, Tim, is in Birmingham cheering from the sidelines.

Sara said her two children were close growing up and continued to have a strong bond.

“They might not say that, but they are,” she laughed.

“He’s actually got a T-shirt made up with a photo of Claire in her hockey uniform on the front, and on the back it’s got ‘Colwill #1 supporter’.

“Number one is also actually Claire’s playing number.”

While Birmingham was the first major tournament Sara and her mum would not be watching Claire from the sidelines for, she said she doubted that would make her daughter nervous.

“She’s always been really independent and the group is so supportive. It’s just one big family.

“I think she’s just loving every minute of it and just wouldn’t want to be anywhere else … she just seems to be thriving.”

Colwill and the Hockeyroos will play for gold tonight after defeating India in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals.

A young woman in an Australian hockey uniform kneeling next to her grandmother and holding a hockey stick.
Until the Games, Jill Loughnan has been on the sidelines to watch her granddaughter.(Supplied: Sara Colwill)

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