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Canada captain Kate Gillis poised to strike with Canberra

If you can't beat them, join them. Canada hockey captain Kate Gillis figures playing with Australian Hockeyroos Anna Flanagan and Edwina Bone is better than against them after accepting an invitation to play with Canberra Strikers in the Australian Hockey League starting next weekend. 

The forward will bolster the team's attacking arsenal after Canada head coach Ian Rutledge, a former Strikers coach, told her it would improve her game.

She's looking forward to linking with world junior player of the year Flanagan, whose fine season was highlighted by Commonwealth Games gold and World Cup silver. 

"I'm really excited to play with her as opposed to against her," Gillis said. "Eddy Bone is great too, she's quick and has good skills." 

Gillis knows through experience just how much field hockey's profile pales in comparison to Canada's national sport.

Gillis' father Mike was an ice hockey star, taken at pick five by Colorado Rockies in the 1978 National Hockey League draft. 


He was fired as the Vancouver Canucks president and general manager in April after the club failed to make the NHL playoffs for the first time in six years.

In field hockey, Gillis boasts more than 100 international caps and guided Canada to eighth at the Commonwealth Games. 

Gillis said Rutledge, who once headed up the hockey program at ACT Academy of Sport, had already worked wonders with a young Canada side during his year in charge.

"We've improved tons since he's been here," she said. "He's trying to expose us to really highly competitive teams which we haven't been before. This year we tied with England in a Test match which is huge for us.

"He prides himself on hard work and commitment, we're taking some of that attacking Australian hockey and bringing it back to Canada."

The Strikers finished fourth in the AHL last year, the first time the tournament had been condensed to a one-week format. This year's women's tournament will be held in Brisbane from October 4-11.

"I have no doubt we can finish in the top four and certainly give finals a shake, that's for sure," said Strikers coach Steph Andrews. "We're young but still an experienced side, we're going there to win it."

ACT men's side the Lakers will also field a strong line-up led by Australia 2014 World Cup winners Andrew Charter and Glenn Turner. Their tournament will be played in Adelaide.