By Jonty Ralphsmith
It started 16 months ago as a concept.
Now, Cardinia Storm Hockey Club has just celebrated its first birthday and is a club with more than 100 members.
Those within the club describe the first year as chaotic, but necessary mayhem to establish the foundations long-term.
The club, which launched its 2024 season alongside the first anniversary on Friday evening at the Cardinia Club, started with 12 women who had a clear vision.
“We wanted something new, we had a passion for hockey and we wanted to have a really inclusive space for all members of the community,” said former president and current player Lauren Walsh.
“Coming out of the pandemic, there were not a lot of people playing sport and there was disconnect from the community.
“It’s not necessarily about the competition, because a lot of people get fixated on the level and getting high.
“We just want people to enjoy the sport, get the community feel going and allow people to socialise and feel safe.”
Almost everyone in the Storm’s inaugural women’s team also had an off-field role to fill, despite many, including the president, being about university age.
Dismissing warnings about the challenges associated with starting a club, the ambitious women took it on, building something special quickly.
Junior enquiries came quickly and in greater capacity than expected.
By Term 4 there were two under-8 teams, an under-10 and an under-12 side.
This season, the club will field its first under-14 team – a big step up, being the first age group to play on a full-sized field.
The fruits of their hard work for the juniors is starting to be felt across the community.
“We want everyone to feel welcomed,” Walsh said.
“A lot of the kids have said it’s their safe space.
“They might have troubles in school, but they come to hockey and have their own friendship groups.
“We’ve even had kids start high school this year and know someone because of hockey, so it has been really special to see that community development.”
The 2024 season will also see the Storm field a men’s unit for the first time, with coach Pete Kelly’s approach mirroring the club’s core values.
“We’ve been building for the last few months and it’s looking really positive,” said Kelly, who also emceed the evening.
“We want it to be a family-friendly environment.
“We’re starting at a social level where anyone can slot in.
“We have enough experience in the team to help grow the unit.
“The location we’re at is in such a big growth corridor; we want to get as many people involved in hockey as possible.”