Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan fires at goal in Glasgow. Photo: Getty Images
Anna Flanagan has more than just the hockey world at her feet – she’s got the whole planet.
Already one of the best players in the world, the Canberra-bred Hockeyroos defender is also one of its most marketable.
At just 22 years of age she boasts a swelling online following and on Monday morning will make her 137th appearance for the national team in the Commonwealth Games final against England.
She’s already earned a Commonwealth Games gold medal, played at the London Olympics and picked up a world young player of the year title.
Off the field, Flanagan has upwards of 20,000 followers on Instagram, to go with close to 14,000 on Twitter, while this tournament she’s ticked over 13,000 fans on Facebook.
They’re staggering numbers, which will only grow in parallel with her Hockeyroos career.
“All of this off-field stuff is really exciting and I love to promote hockey and women’s sport as much as I can,” Flanagan said.
“That’s why I find social media such an awesome platform to try and get people engaged, and try and get our sport out there.
“For us I think social media’s a friend because we’re not on TV every day like football. We can really engage with people who don’t see as much of our sport.
“I do love it, I try to get as much media on board as possible.”
Flanagan is a reporter’s dream.
She boasts a journalism degree, writes a regular blog and loves talking to the press.
It’s an industry she hopes to pursue after hockey, although there’s far too much water to pass under the bridge until then to even think about that yet.
“It’s kind of a running joke in the team that I’m going to be playing until I’m about 39 because I just love hockey that much,” Flanagan said.
“I just want to play as long as I can and just keep experiencing these environments, I want to see us back to world No.1.
“That’s just the best feeling to be able to share something like that with these girls.”
Hockeyroos legend Nikki Hudson owns the record for most Australian appearances, having represented her country 303 times between 1985 and 2000.
Current skipper Madonna Blyth, who turns 29 this year, isn’t far off having pushed past 290 this tournament.
Flanagan is well on track to surpass them both, should she stay injury-free over the next decade.
Her 135 caps have taken just under four-and-a-half years to accrue.
At that rate she’ll have roughly 270 by her 27th birthday and close to 400 by the time she’s 31.
Should she happen to press on to the age of 39, it’d put her into the unprecedented 600 club.
It’s an incredibly unlikely scenario, but there’s no denying there’ll be more international success coming the Hockeyroos’ way while she’s in the team.
Especially if national coach Adam Commens is on the mark, suggesting we haven’t nearly seen the best of Flanagan just yet.
“The sky’s the limit for her, she has the right attitude and she can continue to improve not only in the next one or two years but throughout her career,” Commens said.
“She still plays the game probably as a younger athlete. She has a real passion and determination to improve.
“She was voted the young world player of the year, and over in the Netherlands she was identified as one of the stars of the tournament, not only by the Australians but by the international media.”
“I thought she was outstanding and she’s not only a quality junior player now she’s one of the better senior players in the world already.”
Winning gold at these Commonwealth Games is the immediate focus for Flanagan, but she has a burning desire for Australia surpass the Netherlands as the world’s best team.
Just 18 months ago the Hockeyroos had slipped to seventh in the world after a failed campaign at the London Olympics in 2012 where they could manage only fifth.
They’ve slowly rebuilt, and showed at last month’s World Cup they were bridging the gap to the Netherlands.
A gold medal at these Dutchless Games is crucial in continuing the Hockeyroos’ recent momentum.
“We’ve got our eyes on this tournament, we really need to perform here and there is a lot of pressure and expectation so it’s going to be really tough,” Flanagan said.
“Obviously we were disappointed [after the World Cup final], but Holland were the better team and that’s why they’ve been world champions the last few years.
“We’re chasing them but on reflection we’ve come from seventh to second in 18 months and I think that’s a huge achievement.
“It’s taken a while and a lot of hard work but we were happy with our result at the World Cup knowing that we have to keep improving.”