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Finally, Skirving's chance to enjoy Trophy triumph

3 December 2005

If Australia can hold aloft its seventh women's Champions Trophy after tomorrow's grand final against The Netherlands, much will be owed to a player who sat on the sidelines in tears with mixed emotions and a badly wrecked right knee following the Hockeyroos' last trophy win in 2003 in Sydney.

Skirving tore her anterior cruciate ligament during the 2003 grand final against China and required a full knee reconstruction which threw her Olympic hopes into jeopardy. Eventually she fought back in time to play in Athens, but the Hockeyroos failed there.

Fittingly, the Queensland defender is playing career-best hockey in the current Champions Trophy in Canberra - easily Australia's best in a tournament in which its defence has been pivotal in keeping it alive.

The modest Skirving prefers to credit the players around her. But co-captain Nikki Hudson had no doubt the Toowoomba-born 24-year-old has come back a better, stronger player than two years ago. "Her passing is fantastic, her flicking has improved, she's just about getting a goal a game," Hudson said of Skirving, whose unstoppable shot from a penalty corner sealed her team's 3-1 win over The Netherlands in today's final round-robin match to book a grand final berth.

Skirving has also been a wall at the back for her side - the cornerstone of a defence which has been pressured relentlessly but has stood up in its unbeaten Champions Trophy run to date. And she admits to enjoying each match for her country a little more since injury robbed her of the chance to do so in the first half of last year. "In a way, I guess you're just grateful to be out there.

When you can't be out there doing what you love it frustrates you," Skirving said. "I try to come into every game with the passion and excitement that I'm actually out there. "It's just great to be out there."

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