Olympic hockey player Russell Ford retires
30 April 2015
HOCKEY: Olympian Russell Ford has announced his retirement from international hockey after 158 appearances for the Kookaburras in a decade-long career.
The Olympic bronze medallist, 31, scored 72 times for Australia including against the Netherlands in the Kookaburras’ 2-1 victory in the Champions Trophy final on home turf in Melbourne in 2012.
Since making his debut as a 22 year-old in a 4-1 win over India in June 2006 under then coach Barry Dancer, Ford has gone on to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, the World Cup, four Champions Trophies, two Oceania Cups, and the World League semi final and final tournaments.
Explaining his decision, Ford said, “I just believe the time is right to call it a day. I have spent ten years as a part of the Kookaburras and over the past months I have had time to refresh and make my decision with a clear mind.
“To play my first game was a privilege and a dream come true, and to be a part of such a successful program for this period of time is something I am very proud of.
“Growing up as a young boy, playing for Australia was something I always dreamed of doing and it has even exceeded my expectations."
Ford was part of Australia’s bronze medal-winning Olympic campaign of 2012 – scoring four goals in London, two of which came against the hosts - and a member of the World Cup team in 2006 that won silver. Amongst his four Champions Trophy campaigns, in which he won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze, success on his home turf ranks highly amongst the Melburnian’s career highlights.
“Even though the result could have been better, the London Olympics is a real highlight. The whole Olympic experience is something I won’t forget,” he said.
“Playing in the Champions Trophy at home in Melbourne in front of my friends and family, and being able to win that final in extra time is another experience I’ll never forget.”
Kookaburras Coach Graham Reid, who has worked with Ford since 2009, said, “Russell is a true team player. He has been a major part of what the Kookaburras stand for over the last ten years. He was involved with three World Cup campaigns and two Olympic Campaigns, competing at the London Olympics in 2012.
“He is extremely respectful and well-liked by everyone. The words I think of when I think of Russell are resilience, perseverance, determination, ‘cracking goal shot’, and skilful. A great citizen and we wish him the best for his next challenges.”
Ford scored his first international goal in a 4-0 win over Argentina at the 2006 World Cup and made his 150th appearance for Australia against New Zealand in April last year. He was named as part of the Kookaburras’ squad for the 2014 World Cup but was cruelly robbed of his place after tearing his calf in a warm-up match against Germany just two days before the tournament. It was a cruel twist of fate after scoring in every game but one at the World League Semi Final tournament the previous year, helping to lead the Kookaburras to World Cup qualification. The injury ultimately ruled him out of the Commonwealth Games two months later.
Paying tribute to those that have helped foster his career, Ford said, “There have been many people who have influenced my career. Barry Dancer, for originally giving me a chance and my debut. And then Ric Charlesworth, who I think was able to get the best out of me. I owe him a lot for that.
“Thanks to Doncaster Hockey Club in Melbourne, and Melville Hockey Club in Perth. They have always been great supporters of me, as well as my VIS coaches John Mowat and Jay Stacy.
“My biggest supporters have been my family, especially my parents. I thank them for all their support over the years. Having them in the grandstands has meant so much to me. They gave up a lot in order for me to pursue my dream as a young kid and I am forever thankful to them.
“I also want to thank those close to me who have helped support me while making the decision to retire. While the decision has been a tough one, they have provided clarity and given me the support needed so that I can call it a day without any regrets.
“One of the hardest things about retirement will be not being able to train and play with my teammates every day. I have been privileged to be able to play with some of the best players in the world. And my time with the Kookaburras has allowed me to build some friendships that will last for a lifetime, which to me is as important as anything else. I sincerely thank them for helping create some of the great memories that I will take with me.”
This season, Ford has played in the Dutch Hoofdklasse and for Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League. For the time being, he hopes to remain in the Netherlands before considering a return to Australia to continue his career in athlete management.
Russell Ford’s International Career Highlights
June 2006 – Makes senior international debut in 4-1 win over India at Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
September 2006 – Scores first international goal in 4-0 win over Argentina at World Cup
September 2006 – Collects first silverware, a silver medal, as Kookaburras finish runners-up to
Germany at World Cup
December 2007 – Takes home silver medal from Champions Trophy in Kuala Lumpur
August 2010 – Wins first Champions Trophy gold medal as Kookaburras beat England in
October 2011 – Helps Kookaburras to Oceania Cup gold medal over New Zealand in Hobart
August 2012 – Scores four goals en route to Olympic bronze medal in London. Ford was called-up as a replacement for the injured Des Abbott
December 2012 – Wins Champions Trophy gold medal in his home city, Melbourne. Scores in the final, a 2-1 extra time win over the Netherlands
December 2012 – Finishes at the Kookaburras’ top goal scorer with 19 goals in the year
June 2013 – Scores in every game but one, netting five times in total, to help the Kookaburras to the silver medal at World League Semi Final and secure World Cup qualification
November 2013 – Helps Kookaburras to Oceania Cup gold medal. Scores five goals in one match, against PNG, his first ever international hat-trick
December 2013 – Finishes as the Kookaburras’ top goal scorer with 20 goals in the year
January 2014 – Plays for Kookaburras in the inaugural World League Final in Delhi as Australia narrowly miss out on bronze medal
June 2014 – Misses World Cup campaign after calf tear sustained in practice match against Germany forces his withdrawal
December 2014 – Helps lead an inexperienced Kookaburras team to Champions Trophy bronze medal
April 2015 – Retires from international hockey