Jessica O’Connor first took to an international indoor court for South Africa on the 11 April 2014, in a 3-1 win over Namibia. 3 228 days later she would lead her country onto the court for the last time in a bronze medal match at the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup.
In an international career that spanned a decade remarkably O’Connor played her 132 test matches consecutively, never missing a match. A wonderful testament to the type of person and player she was for the country. Having led her country to first ever FIH World Cup (indoor or outdoor) Semi-Final for an African nation, O’Connor has decided to hang up her stick and call time on her international career.
Over 132 test matches O’Connor, known as one of the best tacklers on the world stage, played against 20 different countries and scored 42 goals, an impressive return for a defender that puts her in the top 5 goal scorers of all time for the country. Her four goals at the Indoor World Cup were pivotal in leading the country to a highly unfancied but massively deserved Semi-Final place, with the Quarter-Final goal against Belgium the cherry on top of a sensational cake.
O’Connor was part of the team that became the first African nation to win a test series away from home against a top 8 nation, while also helped the team celebrate victories like the Croatian Cup and the SPAR 4 Nations Invitational. She represented South Africa at two World Cups (2015 and 2023). O’Connor also earned 17 caps for the outdoor side seeing her finish her international career with 149 international outings.
Former SA Hockey Head Coach Lennie Both oversaw all 132 tests of Jess O’Connor’s career and was glowing in his praise of her:
“It was an incredible journey with Jess throughout her international career. I was fortunate to have a front row seat and it was an enjoyable ride. From her debut back in 2014 through 132 consecutive test matches Jess established herself as one of the best indoor hockey defenders in the world, with a characteristic tackle that was second to none.
Jess took over the captaincy at the back end of her international career and absolutely excelled in the role. Her leadership was central to the team’s success at the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup, where the team achieved a historic fourth place.
Thank you Jess for your decade of commitment and congratulations on a stellar career. Enjoy your retirement!”
SA Hockey Interim CEO Shaune Baaitjies also paid tribute to O’Connor:
“Jess, your unwavering commitment to Indoor has left an indelible mark not only on the team but on the entire SA Hockey population and beyond.
You have made history as the most capped indoor player in the country and as the captain who took your team to 4th place in the first World cup outside Europe which was also a first for South Africa and all these are remarkable achievements. Your ability to bring out the best in your teammates is testament to your exceptional captaincy and all these are nothing short of inspirational.
Your retirement marks the end of an era, but it also signals a new chapter in your life. I have no doubt that whatever path you choose to embark upon, you will approach it with the same dedication and determination that made you a legend on the Indoor field. As you step away from international competition, please know that your legacy will continue to inspire future generations of hockey players.
On behalf of SA Hockey, I want to express our heartfelt gratitude for your years of service to the sport and the country. We wish you all the happiness and success in your future endeavors.”
O’Connor retires as the most capped indoor hockey player on the continent and leaves fans with incredible memories of an unforgettable career. Thank you, Jess!
@sahockey Dont cry because its over, smile because it happened! After 132 test caps Jess O’Connor has decided to hang up her stick! Thank you #12 ♬ Rockin – Chris Alan Lee