If you were to ask anyone who’s come up against Australia’s Rachael Lynch and Ashleigh Nelson on the hockey pitch to describe them, I suspect “charitable” would be low down on the list of words used. Away from the glare of the competitive hockey spotlight however, both the Hockeyroos are more than willing to do their bit for a good cause.

Rach and AshRather than taking some time off after a hectic period that has seen them travel to Europe to pick up a World Cup silver medal before making their way to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games later this month, Nelson and Lynch will embark on a ten day trek through the Kokoda trail to raise money for R U OK?

R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation working to create a world where everyone is connected and is protected from suicide, promoting taking care of your mental well-being and being prepared to support and help those struggling with life.

With both of their lives outside of the Hockeyroos intrinsically linked with mental health, it is a charity close to both Nelson and Lynch’s hearts:

“I’m an occupational therapist and Rachael’s a nurse so we come across all kinds of mental health illnesses and we’ve seen first-hand the impact they can have on someone’s physical capabilities as well as their mental ones.” says Nelson. “Suicide is a huge a killer in Australia. There are a lot of athletes who struggle with the transition from being full time sports people to the normal world, too, so we’re interested in the athlete aspect, for obvious reasons but we’re interested through our professional lives, too.”

It is a sentiment the Hockeyroos goalkeeper echoes, telling The Top of the D:
“Our sporting lifestyle is such a unique existence, to be able to transition from the team and support staff being around you every day to what people call the ‘real world’ takes time. It can be quite lonely to leave that environment so we need to ensure that care and support is in place and that we give people the help they need to deal with the change.”

They will start the trek on the 11th of August, aiming to arrive at the finish by the 22nd. The Kokoda Trek is by no means a stroll in the park. It stretches 96km across rugged, isolated terrain, passable only by foot. It starts at Owers Corner and ends in the village of Kokoda. Oh and there’s a 2,190 metre climb up to the peak of Mount Bellamy thrown in for good measure. Nelson, a forward capped over 150 times by Australia is under no illusions about the task ahead:

“I’m nervous about the trek, definitely. I’m not sure how well hockey training will translate to hiking. I keep saying it’ll be fun but I reckon a few days in I might reconsider. It’ll be great doing it with someone like Rach who can hopefully carry me up a few of the hills! It’s definitely going to be one of the hardest things I’ve done.”

FundraisingThe fundraising total currently stands at $15,600, and support has been excellent. Teammate Georgie Parker donated $10 per Australian goal during the recent World Cup. It was a promise that ended up costing her a pretty penny as the Hockeyroos and the Kookaburras ran up 41 goals across their 14 matches. Plenty of other supporters have put their hands in their pockets too, but in typical fashion, the two international stars refuse to rest on their laurels:

“We’re hoping to get around $20-$25,000 that would be amazing.” said Lynch.  “We started with $5,000 as a target but got there quite easily. Hopefully we’ll reach the next goal fairly easily, too and then we’d love to keep going and get as much as we can.”

Both are paying the costs incurred for the trip from their own pockets, to ensure that all the money raised goes to the charity.

With the small matter of defending their Commonwealth Games crown to get out of the way first, it promises to be a truly punishing couple of months for the two Hockeyroos; hopefully it will ultimately be a rewarding one and both awareness and donations can be increased as much as possible.

Of course you can make a donation yourself by clicking on their fundraising page here and if you would like to find out more about R U OK? why not visit their website?

The Top of the D would like to wish Rachael and Ashleigh the best of luck with their fundraising and with the trek itself. Rather them than me!

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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