Footscray hockey rising star Carly James left just enough to the imagination last season to enter 2020 with even bigger aspirations.
The defender enjoyed huge growth in her own game at club, national and international levels, playing major roles for the various teams she represented.
While all her teams reached the pointy end of their seasons, they all just fell short of the ultimate glory and that will spur on James this year.
“It was a pretty awesome year, a pretty good ride,” James said.
“It was pretty fun to be a part of HC Melbourne [in the new Hockey One competition], have a good year with Footscray and make the grand final and then have a few trips with the Australian development teams.”
James finished 2019 on a high, representing Australia’s under 21s in a tri-nations series in December.
The Jillaroos overcame a sluggish start to finish the tournament in second place. After losing the opener 3-1 to New Zealand, the Jillaroos had a 1-1 draw with India and rounded out the series with a 3-1 win over India and 2-1 win over New Zealand.
James was one of only two Victorians in the Jillaroos team, along with team captain Aisling Utri.
“We were the only two Victorians so hopefully we did the Big V proud,” James said.
“It was a good experience to really learn and keep improving.
“To play against high intense quality teams, you don’t get the opportunity every day.”
On the national front, James was a key part of HC Melbourne’s incredible first year in the Hockey One competition.
All that stood between HC Melbourne and the inaugural title was a penalty shoot out loss to Brisbane Blaze in the grand final.
While the final day loss was tough for James, she appreciated being part of the newly formed HC Melbourne in a Hockey One competition that changed the way the sport is played and watched at the elite level in Australia.
“It was massive to be a part of,” James said.
“To be able to play in front of a home crowd, have it televised and to be able to promote our own brand, and show in hockey that men and women can play equal times and have week by week travel was great.
“There were a couple of weeks where the Hockeyroos girls had to still qualify for Tokyo, so it was real fierce competition.”
At club level, James experienced that so close yet so far feeling on grand final day as well, with Footscray going down to Hawthorn 4-0.
Just reaching the season decider was a huge feat for the Bulldogs and James cannot wait to see how much her young team has gained from that experience.
“It’s a super young group,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that can lead to future success.