This time last year, Gerringong’s Grace Stewart was preparing for her HSC at Kiama High. This year, she’s in Rio as a member of the HockeyRoos, following her impressive performance in the Champions Trophy in London and the International Hockey Tournament in Darwin during which she scored nine goals.
Talking to her grandparents Bub and Russell Ford, you get the feeling it was only a matter of time before their family produced an Olympian. Russell gave up an opportunity to play with St George in its heyday when he fell in love and moved to Gerringong to marry Bub.
“The whole family is really sporty,” Bub says of her nine children and 26 grandchildren, reeling off their achievements such as playing for Parramatta, being selected for state teams in hockey, touch football and rugby league, and taking on soccer scholarships in the US.
Russell is very proud at what Grace has achieved at just 19. “She’s fast, and she is a real team player,” he says. “She’s a striker, but likes to bring others into the game.”
Apart from her sporting prowess, he’s proud of her character. “You wouldn’t find a nicer girl. She’s just lovely.”
Hockey has long been a favoured family sport. Bub says she only stopped running around the field when she was 60. All five of her daughters played the game, and Grace’s younger sisters, Lily and Demi, still at Kiama High, have already been selected on NSW hockey teams.
Grace’s parents, Mandy and Scott Stewart, have gone to Rio to watch her play. Being selected for the HockeyRoos at such a young age means her career is just beginning.