Lacrosse player learns American way Australian was on Poor Richards team

August 02, 1992|By Tom Worgo | Tom Worgo,Contributing Writer

Her accent may sound a little strange, but her lacrosse skills have found a home.

Justine Hurst arrived in the United States from Australia about 2 1/2 years ago with aspirations of playing Division I college lacrosse and learning how to play the game -- the American way.

She was surprised, however, to find that her aggressive style of play would have to be tempered.

Hurst, 25, who now lives in Cape St. Claire, may never have put on a collegiate uniform, but she has made the transition to learning the American style of play.

"I play a different style of lacrosse. I am very aggressive," said Hurst, who works as a secretary at the Australian Embassy in Washington. "It was hard to fit in at first. I had to adjust my game because we played so differently in Australia."

Even the organization of the sport is different in her country.

"We don't have the colleges or universities," Hurst said. "In Australia, everything is played on the club level."

She competed in the 1989 World Cup, playing attack for the Australian National squad that finished third out of six teams. That year, she led the team in scoring, registering 11 goals in five games against the U.S., England, Canada, Scotland and Wales.

"Its like the U.S. Olympic team," Hurst said. "The team I played for was the best women's lacrosse players from Australia. I played against some of the best players in the world. It's as far as you can go with lacrosse."

Leann Shuck, who played against Hurst last summer on a Baltimore club team and with her last spring on a South II club All-Star team, said adjustments for Hurst's game were necessary.

"She has a different style of play than we do in America," said Shuck, who played lacrosse at the University of Maryland from 1989-1991 and is the girls lacrosse coach at Broadneck High School. "She is used to a lot rougher game. She had to change her ways a lot and tone down her play. But she definitely has had progression in her play."

In November 1989, Hurst went to College Park hoping to be admitted and eventually play lacrosse in the spring. But the college would not accept Hurst because she lacked some of the basic required courses.

Hurst still practiced with the team for about a month. She graduated from high school in Australia with an Agricultural certificate, and had no interest in playing lacrosse at a community college.

"I tried to get a scholarship to Maryland, but it fell through," Hurst said. "The coaches sounded really interested. That was the big thing -- nothing happened."

Hurst went home for four months, but returned during the summer after playing lacrosse for a Seacombe club team that won an Australian State championship.

"It was sad to leave there because lacrosse was my life," Hurst said. "I practiced and played all year round."

Hurst's lacrosse this summer has been limited to shooting at a net in her backyard and playing catch with her boyfriend. Hurst took the summer off because her new job would not allow her to attend club games on time. She may play for a club team this fall or winter.

To stay in shape, Hurst runs two to three times a week, does step aerobics twice a week and plays touch football once a week.

Hurst will try out for the Australian national lacrosse team next spring that will play in the 1993 World Cup, hoping to make the team for a second time.

"I have to start training every day," Hurst said. "But I have to get more intense and do more. I will have to work really hard to make the team. They practice as a team year-round."

Nine years of playing the sport overseas made Hurst one of Australia's standout performers.

Hurst started playing lacrosse competitively in 1982. For her first eight seasons, she played for Burnside Lacrosse Club in Adelaide -- the capital city of South Australia. For Burnside, she competed on one of the country's premier club teams for six seasons (1984-1989), winning five state championships.

"She can hold her own in any club game, being a big offensive threat," Shuck said. "She had to be one of the top players on her club team. She is definitely a Division I player. Her basic skills are perfect."

After playing on a Washington club team in 1990, Hurst spent the last two years competing for Poor Richards, a competitive club team of the Baltimore Women's Lacrosse Association. And last May, she was a Southern District Club South II second-team All-Star.

While Hurst misses Australia, working in Washington makes her feel right at home.

"I am still working with Australians," she said. "I am in America and I have never really left Australia."

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