SuperSport Schools Plus

Player profile: Georgia Pollock (St Mary’s DSG – Kloof)

By Brad Morgan , in Hockey | Featured , at 2024-06-05 Tags: , ,

St Mary’s DSG became the winners of the inaugural St Anne’s Cup in May, annexing the title in emphatic fashion against a classy eight-team field. With captain Georgia Pollock pulling the strings, the Kloof side outplayed St Mary’s Waverley champions’ Durban Girls’ College 4-0 in the final.

Pollock was named the Midfielder of the Tournament. Her teammate, Cassandra Forbes, was named the Defender of the Tournament.

“The St Anne’s Cup was insane!” Pollock recently told SuperSport Schools Plus. “Being here in the primary school, hockey was always a big thing, and you look at Oranje Meisies and Eunice, and those are the teams. This was the first time in my high school career that I’ve played either of those sides.

“My team played them at St Mary’s Waverley. I got to watch. This was the first time I had played a Free State team, and then we beat them, which was surreal.

“Having a Durban derby game in the final was also kind of cool. Winning… I felt it could go either way. Obviously, last time they beat us 3-2 [in a league match, which Pollock missed with an injury]. I think everyone played out of their socks.

“That was a huge highlight because we went unbeaten throughout the tournament. It felt like we played a really good brand of hockey.”

Pollock, who made the SA Schools team in 2023 and also represented the SA u17 side at the Mirnawan Cup in Malaysia last year, where they finished fourth, missed out on the St Mary’s Waverley Tournament early in April because she had suffered an injury on a pre-season tour of the Netherlands. It was tough sitting on the side, watching her teammates in action.

Even without the influential midfielder, St Mary’s DSG placed sixth in the elite 32-team field. “They were all very sweet to me and said how they had missed me. But I think they did incredibly without me. I will give them credit for that, but it was kind of sad to watch from the side,” Pollock said.

Playing against Eunice for a first time at the St Anne's Cup, and helping St Mary's DSG to a 3-2 win over the Bloemfontein powerhouse was a big highlight of 2024, Georgia Pollock said.
Playing against Eunice for a first time at the St Anne’s Cup and helping St Mary’s DSG to a 3-2 win over the Bloemfontein powerhouse was a big highlight of 2024, Georgia Pollock said.

“I felt like they could have used more legs when I wasn’t there, because they had to fill so many other roles. I felt bad for them, because that is quite tiring.”

It’s those physical demands of hockey that fuel Pollock. Describing what she likes about the game, she said: “I love the athleticism of it, and how you are always running around. There’s always something new to learn, like a new skill. I love that it is a team sport, and that you make friends through it.”

That’s something that jumps out when watching the 2024 St Mary’s first team in action: they’re an excellent team, but a big part of the reason appears to be the spirit in the side. They have fun and they enjoy each other’s company. Friends? Definitely. But, for Pollock, it goes even deeper than that.

“It is very cringe or cliché, but they feel like your sisters, which is so nice, because on and off the field you know that they have your back. It’s not just about hockey. They can tell when you’re having a bad day, and it helps how they treat you on the field and off, so that’s nice,” she explained.

If they are a happy bunch of sisters, much of that stems from Pollock’s leadership, which she described as “democratic”, and that healthy atmosphere also comes from the example that she sets.

“I like to get everyone’s opinion and perspective, even about small things, like what colour we’re wearing on the day. I would say I am open minded and approachable,” Pollock said.

That leadership, too, is evident in the way she plays the game. There are many different types of midfielders, but Pollock describes herself as “a distributor”. Once she shares that description, watching her in action, the crucial role she plays in the team becomes clear.

Pollock makes the players around her better. That’s the mark of a special player. She’s not flashy, but she’s the oil that greases the machine for St Mary’s DSG.

Driving forward and putting St Mary's on the attack against Danville Park Girls' High School.
Driving forward and putting St Mary’s on the attack against Danville Park Girls’ High School.

The school has been her home through primary and high school days, and she’s moved up the ranks with three other members of the first team: Anna Birt, Alex Bowyer and Courtney Stewart. Many of the other first team players moved to St Mary’s when it came time to choose a high school, so that they could benefit from the established excellence of the hockey programme.

Included among those later additions are Cassandra Forbes, who was in the SA u17 team with Pollock in Malaysia, and Elizabeth Anderson, who regularly finishes tournaments as the top goal scorer. Earlier this year, at the u21 Inter-Provincial Tournament, she, as usual, topped the scoring charts.

There have always been outstanding players at St Mary’s who have inspired her, Pollock said: “Watching them play, they were huge inspirations. I have a sister, Jemma, who is older, so in her year she had Cerian Fourie, Dani de Oliveira, and Hannah Breytenbach. They were all huge inspirations and knowing them on a personal level made it that much more incredible.

The culture, and the manner in which St Mary’s approached the game, was very appealing, also: “I think something about all of them is that none of them seemed to be selfish. They were all team players and then had one aspect that you could look at, like Cailynn Den Bakker, look at how she runs on the field, and that work ethic, and it’s like ‘Wow, I want to incorporate that’.

“It felt like St Mary’s really nurtured everyone’s individuality but played together as a team, which was so appealing, and something that we all admired.”

There has also been a long list of excellent coaches to help advance Pollock and her team-mates’ hockey education. “I’ve been very fortunate to have so many good coaches,” she said. “Even now, [Director of Hockey] Mrs [Caryn]Springate walks past, and just knowing what she did for the country, and how she had 99 caps, very cool!

Kelly Reed, as well, Cam Mackay, Carla Mackay, Nolwazi “Chicken” Nkabinde, Keegan Pearce, for club hockey, has been incredible.

“Even with indoor, I have been really blessed to have people who have played for the country, and their technical skills, or just the way they play as a team. All of them have left a mark on me in their own unique way.”

Ever the leader, she nervously laughed: “I don’t want to leave anyone out! ”

Georgia Pollock fires off a shot in a KZN league match against Danville Park Girls' High School.
Georgia Pollock fires off a shot in a KZN league match against Danville Park Girls’ High School.

Since she was u12, Pollock has been a regular representing KZN Coastal at provincial level. Last year, she helped the SA u18 side win one and draw one against the SA u21 team. Then, visiting Malaysia, playing in the green and gold, was special.

“It was so cool. Even the cultures mixing together, because then you really feel like you are taking a part of your country with you, which is really fun.

“Having the kit at home is always a nice little reminder of what you can achieve, and why you play the game, to get to that level, and just to have fun and explore.”

This year, at the SASHOC National Week, the KZN team will be primarily made up of players from St Mary’s DSG and Durban Girls’ College, with each school providing six players. There’s a strong bond between the players from the two schools, Pollock explained, which will be a huge benefit to the side’s challenge for the overall honours.

“I have been fortunate that we have always played together. They feel like sisters. We have this odd tradition, whenever we play them, we tend to always meet afterwards, or have something planned for after our game. Even when we are playing, we will have conversations with each other on the field. We are friends throughout.”

She’s optimistic that 2024 could be KZN Coastal’s year to go all the way. “Very excited,” she smiled, “because we have been together for so long. We know how each other plays. Hopefully, this will be our strongest year. In u16, we were in the final, but we came second. Hopefully, this year we can win.”

Throughout her hockey-playing days, the foundation for her success, Georgia Pollock revealed, has been the support of her parents, dad Shaun and mom Trish. What kind of sports’ parent is the cricket legend, SuperSport Schools Plus wondered?

“Honestly, I couldn’t ask for better. I think the way that he and my mom work together has been such a blessing for me. I think he’s really got my best interests at heart.

“Because he’s been in the game, he knows the mental side and what the sport requires of you. He’s been so nice, especially being my dad, first and foremost, and then when I’m looking for advice, he’s always willing to give it.

“He’s built an Astro in our garden, which is just beyond! I’m sure it’s the little boy inside of him, getting quite excited just to have the sporting facilities. He’s been incredible.”

Brad Morgan