Julie Ashton-Lucy, Hockey

Julie Ashton-Lucy
Credit: Internationl Hockey Federation (FIH)
Author:  Cathy Reid
Issue: Volume 7 Number 2

An uncanny ability to read the game and an incredible sense of timing once made Julie Ashton–Lucy one of the top hockey defenders in the country. Now those traits have made the Queenslander one of the best umpires in the world.

The 42-year-old umpired her 100th international in the bronze-medal playoff between Germany and Argentina at the Beijing Olympics, and was awarded the prestigious Golden Whistle by the International Hockey Federation.

‘I umpired well and it was a nice way to finish off a tournament,’ Ashton–Lucy said. ‘It was just so awesome to achieve everything I’d wanted.’

Making it even more special, her husband, Paul Lucy, and daughters, ten-year-old Brooke and 12-year-old Jade, were there to watch.

‘Along the way there have been many sacrifices and a lot of hard work, but with a very supportive family I’ve been fortunate enough to ride the difficult waves and come out on top.

‘I couldn’t have done it without my husband encouraging me and keeping me going when I thought it was all too hard. Then there’s been Mum, Myrtle, who’s always looked after the girls so I could travel.’

In fact, Ashton–Lucy only took up umpiring because her mum told her too!

‘She did all the running around when I was a Queensland and Australian under-21 player and she always said she wanted me to give something back to the sport.

‘I was 23 when I got my State A badge and I handed it to Mum and said, “There you go, that’s for all the things you’ve done for me,” and as far as I was concerned that was it.’

She was more focused on her playing career until she was overlooked for the Queensland team.

The Maroons’ loss was Australian umpiring’s gain. Ashton–Lucy quickly became know as a player’s umpire and was fast-tracked through the officiating ranks.

‘Having an appreciation of the skill at the highest level allows you to see the big picture and anticipate what the next couple of plays might be as opposed to just watching and reacting.

‘I was asked to umpire at the Australian 18s. Then the next year I did the under-21s, and I got my Australian badge and was appointed to the national league.’

In 1994, Ashton–Lucy was selected to go on her first overseas tour to India and South Africa.

She has now been to 28 international tournaments, including two Olympics, two world cups and a Champions Trophy.

‘Initially it was a real eye opener to see how competitive the international umpiring scene was. After my first tournament I wondered if I had what it took.

‘But my husband made me realise it wasn’t about the critics, but what’s best for the players.’

To help overcome nerves she consulted a sports psychologist and learnt self-hypnosis.

She also had to learn to umpire teams that did not speak English.

‘I developed facial expressions and hand signals to get my message across. If need be I’d pull out a card. They soon understand those colours!’

Ashton–Lucy tries not to over-analyse her performances.

‘I don’t get too obsessed. At the Olympics we get clips which I go through with my fellow umpire, but I never watch a whole game.’

She keeps in condition with pool sessions, power walking and cardio workouts.

‘To get through a tournament you need to be at your physical and mental best. I have to be able to keep up with the play and have learnt to anticipate early.’

There have been many highlights but one of the best was umpiring the final of the World Cup in Perth in 2002 between the Netherlands and Argentina.

But her first Olympics in Athens was not the experience she had anticipated.

‘I didn’t umpire as well as I’d hoped and I had to assess where I went wrong. It took me six months to work through that and come back better and stronger.’

It was a different story at the last Olympics.

‘Prior to Beijing I thought it might be time to take a step back, but having umpired so well and remaining in the top three in the world, I’m now looking to the next World Cup in two years.

‘People keep telling me to keep going until London to be the first female Australian umpire to go to three Olympics, but four years is a long time to commit to,’ Ashton–Lucy said.

‘While the passion is there, I am going to keep going.’

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