Aussie rules hockey
The beaches of Australia don’t ever freeze over to create a hockey haven like the lakes and ponds in Canada do. But that didn’t stop Aussie Rylie Padjen from becoming a force to be reckoned with on the ice.
Twenty-two-year-old Padjen, a left wing for the Trojans women’s hockey team, isn’t like most of her teammates. In fact; she’s from the other side of the world and grew up in Canberra, Australia, where the sport of ice hockey isn’t given much attention.
With a Canadian father, Padjen was introduced to the sport at a young age and fell in love with it almost immediately.
Padjen strapped on the skates at the age of eight and has played competitive hockey ever since. By the time she was fourteen she joined the national hockey program and had her first World Championship in 2004 playing on the Australian Women’s National team.
“If you’re a girl in Australia (playing hockey) you can only go so far before you are exposed to the national program,” says Padjen.
In September 2006, one of Padjen’s coaches offered her training opportunities in Canada, so she packed her bags and made the move to Calgary. “I loved it so much I decided to stay,” she says.
Not a year later, Padjen was on her way to her second World Championship tournament in England where Australia won gold. “It was pretty awesome,” says Padjen. “You have to be on top of your game, every game and win every game in order to win the whole tournament.”
Padjen owes her knowledge of the game to her father, Rocky. He showed her plays from the ‘60s and ‘70s and questioned her about what she thought of a certain plays or part of the games.
“As I grew up I got to see the game the way a lot of Canadians would,” says Padjen. “The difference between me and them is that I didn’t get to play the game the way they could, but I can read the game just as well as any of them.”
After Padjen’s first experience at the World Championships in 2004, Rocky became a nationally qualified coach for the Australian team. “It’s good (for the country) to have a homegrown coach,” says Padjen.
With the change of pace, Padjen’s father Rocky believes she is fitting in well and learning a lot on the way. “As a player she is a big presence on the ice,” he says. “She uses her size and gets body position a lot better since she’s been in Calgary.”
However, Rocky says with her knowledge and understanding of the technical aspects of the game, she can have difficulty getting out of her head and into the game. “Sometimes that makes her worry too much about how the game will pan out,” says Rocky, who still lives in Australia. “But I can always count on her when the going gets tough.”
The transition from Australian hockey to Canadian hockey was one Padjen had to get use to. “It was a difficult transition because of the positional play. I wasn’t used to doing that in Australia,” she says. “And it’s a lot (rougher) here.”
As a Trojans starter, Padjen is enjoying what may be her last year with the team. Head coach Terry Larson appreciates having such an educated and passionate player on the ice.
“To be honest, she’s an Australian playing a game that is not natural to Australia,” says Larson. “She is always trying to learn parts of the game that comes natural to players from here.”
Now Padjen, a second-year business administrative student, has a full plate with her studies and her hockey schedule. “I’m just waiting for one day I’m going to have to move on and do something else,” says Padjen. “But for now it’s everything to me.”