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News for 13 January 2021

All the news for Wednesday 13 January2021

Fiona Crackles To Join Senior GB Women's Programme

Fiona Crackles

Fiona Crackles has been rewarded for an impressive start to her international career by being offered a full-time place in the GB women’s programme in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics.

The 20-year-old received her first call up to the senior team in October 2020, making her debut against The Netherlands and featured in all four FIH Hockey Pro League games against the Dutch and Belgium.

Despite her inexperience, the Durham University student produced mature performances against seasoned opponents and was named Player of the Match in the 2-1 victory over Belgium.

She has now been awarded a place in the squad ahead of the Olympics and has started training with the squad upon their return to Bisham Abbey this week.

It’s been something of a whirlwind for the former GB Elite Development Programme (EDP) member but she cannot wait to get going and see what opportunities 2021 present her way.

The 2018 EuroHockey Youth Championships bronze medallist said: “It is very exciting. I guess it’s been very slow to sink in. I still just see myself as someone who plays hockey because they enjoy it. I haven’t really got my head round being a professional athlete so hopefully that will sink in soon.

“After such an amazing experience with the FIH Hockey Pro League I was pretty content, I wasn’t expecting something to come off the back of it so it was amazing to be asked. It took a bit of thought for sure, managing it with everything going on with uni work, but I just knew I had to take the opportunity because with the Olympics coming up you never know what’s going to happen."

With the FIH Hockey Pro League, EuroHockey Championships and Tokyo Games all set to take place this summer, there could be plenty more opportunities for Crackles to grace the international scene again.

And head coach Mark Hager is looking forward to seeing how she can continue to develop in the next few months.

“Having joined us for some training last year, Fiona showed signs of being a player who could cope well on the international stage and showed an impressive understanding of the game.

“She looked really comfortable on her debut against the Dutch and improved in each game. We were impressed with her ability to defend, turn defence into attack, her reading of what’s going on and her overall athleticism.

“Fiona has a fantastic willingness to learn and a strong competitive nature and we’re excited to see how she develops her game even further technically and tactically.”

Despite the excitement at the opportunity being afforded to her, the former Lancaster HC player is determined to just enjoy herself and make the most of any chances that come her way without thinking too far ahead.

“Obviously the Olympics is the long term goal but I’m feeling incredibly to be in the situation I am, still be playing the sport I love in this crazy world.

“I want to enjoy every day as much as I can while putting a shift in and working as hard as I can. It’s early days and I’ve joined the programme so late so I feel like there’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain.”

Great Britain Hockey media release

Fiona Crackles rewarded with GB Hockey women’s call up

Fiona Crackles’ whirlwind rise to the GB women’s squad could see her rewarded with an Olympic ticket after the 20-year-old was called up full-time to the senior national programme.

Crackles, the Durham University student, made her debut in October where she picked up a player of the match award on the Euro trip to Holland and Belgium and began training this week as the GB squad returned to Bisham.

“I guess it’s been very slow to sink in,” she said. “I still just see myself as someone who plays hockey because they enjoy it. I haven’t really got my head round being a professional athlete so hopefully that will sink in soon.”

Before the FIH Pro League trip in the autumn, coach Mark Hager told THP that Crackles was a “tough defender” with good passing ability.

Prior to her senior exposure, she spent time in Queensland where made the state’s highly competitive under-21 team, which Hager said has only helped her hockey knowledge.

Now, the Australian is keen to see the former England junior’s progression.

Hager said: “She looked really comfortable on her debut against the Dutch and improved in each game. We were impressed with her ability to defend, turn defence into attack, her reading of what’s going on and her overall athleticism.

“Fiona has a fantastic willingness to learn and a strong competitive nature and we’re excited to see how she develops her game even further technically and tactically.”

With Olympic squad selection looming, Crackles added: “I’ve joined the programme so late so I feel like there’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain.”

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The Hockey Paper

MHC's worst kept secret is out

Datuk Seri Anil Jeet Singh

THE Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) finally announced yesterday the worst kept secret in the country — that the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL) has been postponed.

The Movement Control Order (MCO), for 14 days, in six states and the state of Emergency until August have put an end to any sports activities for the period.

The men's MHL was supposed to start on Jan 14 and the women's on Jan 20.

"We had no choice but to postpone the MHL as Covid-19 has yet again become a raging problem in the country until the government had to announce a MCO in six states," said MHC Competitions Committee chairman Datuk Seri Anil Jeet Singh.

"Since the MHL was supposed to be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, with a one leg format only, we had to postpone it because there is no guarantee that Covid-19 would be brought under control in 14 days.

"That's why, after consulting with stakeholders and the relevant government agencies, it was decided that the best time to hold the postponed MHL would be either in July or August.

"August is also the end of the state of Emergency and would be the ideal period," said Anil.

Anil is keeping his fingers crossed that the virus would be brought under control by vaccination much earlier than expected.

"If Covid-19 can be contained earlier with vaccination, and there is an opening in the foreign calendar where our teams are competing, MHL can be held earlier as well," said Anil.

The men's MHL has eight teams in treble holders Univesiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL), Terengganu Hockey Team, Tenaga Nasional, Maybank, TNB Thunderbolts, UiTM, Sabah and NurInsafi.

The women's teams are PKS UniTen, Police Blue Warriors, Mutiara Impian, Sabah, Young Tigress and UniKL Ladies.

New Straits Times

Galema set for return to Eindhoven

Jelle Galema is set for a return to HC Oranje-Rood next season following a couple of years with Den Bosch.

Galema (28) played for Oranje-Zwart and then HC Oranje-Rood from 2009 to 2018, becoming a national champion with that team in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and EHL champion in 2015. Since 2013 he has been part of the Dutch national team and has 75 caps to his name.

In 2018, Galema made the switch to HC Den Bosch and was immediately crowned best player of the Dutch Hoofdklasse in his first season there.  

Speaking about his comeback to Eindhoven, he said: “I have always had a great time with Oranje-Zwart and, later, HC Oranje-Rood. Both on a sporting and personal level, it is a club where I feel at home on all fronts.“  

He brings experience and pace to the young team coached by Robert van der Horst for the 2021/22 season.

Euro Hockey League media release

Kim Lammers:'I don’t like it this way’

Marco van Nugteren

Kim Lammers (HUI)

After the largely hockey-free 2020 due to corona, all hockey fans hope that in 2021 it will be possible to play with stick and ball once again. TheHoofdklasse starts on January 31, but will it continue after that?

We look ahead with both famous and lesser known hockey celebrities. What do they expect? Today Kim Lammers, capped 200 times for the Netherlands, scoring 124 goals.

When can we all start playing hockey again?

Kim Lammers:'Before this strict lockdown started, I still had the hope that we – the holidaymakers – would be able to start again in February. But now that January 19th is getting closer, I have a hard time. It would be great if we could start again in the spring. Or continue playing hockey longer in the summer. I do expect that the start of the big league on January 31 will continue anyway. In view of the Olympic Games, you cannot let the big league sit still any longer. Moreover, such strict protocols have been made that it is safe.'

What will be the biggest challenge in the coming six months?

‘To stay positive and to keep it fun together. The atmosphere at the club is gone. The clubhouses are empty. What I miss is the pleasant arrival at the club, drinking a cup of coffee, having a chat with the people who are always on the line. I don’t really like it this way. Empty football stadiums are at least a closed area, but if you play in Den Bosch, to name a few, then you do so in a screeching, cold wind, in front of an empty grandstand and next to a raging A2. It is also a challenge to ensure that everyone stays fit. Many games are scheduled in the Dutch big league. On the other hand, it may also have the advantage that talents are given the opportunity.‘

LONDON – Kim Lammers with her gold medal after winning the final against Argentina at the Olympic Games in London (2012). Photo: Koen Suyk

What will you do first if you have been vaccinated?

Not necessarily other things. I especially want to be able to do everything carefree again. That I can play hockey again, that I no longer have to put on my face mask, that I can mingle with people much more. So that I can do whatever I want.'

When is 2021 a success for you?

‘Corona has had a huge impact on my work. Suddenly I had an empty agenda. But where doors are closed, other doors are opened. For example, I started coaching many more people and groups for my work. The time and energy that I was forced to invest in this, is now starting to pay off. 2021 has been a success for me if I am busy again. But also when there is a lot of sport and when the Olympic Games continue. In short: when we are'open’ again.‘

Are the competitions going to end this season?

‘The big league certainly. I do not doubt that. Not only because the internationals will benefit from this because of the Olympic Games, but also because of the vaccination that has now started, because of the strict protocols that have been made and because of the weather that will hopefully lead to fewer infections. For the other competitions I find it a lot more difficult to say whether they will be played completely, but let me stay positive. So yes.'

Kim Lammers with Ellen Hoog and Maartje Paumen after winning the 2014 World Cup in The Hague. Photo: Willem Vernes

Will the Olympic Games take place and how?

‘They continue one hundred percent. But I do expect in a different form than usual. Maybe with only a Japanese audience, or no audience at all. That is not good for the atmosphere, but the Games will still come to life here in the Netherlands. Sports fans crave it, just like the European Football Championship. I think we are all glued to the tube.‘

Are you going to the European Championships in the Wagener Stadium in June if the public is allowed to attend?

‘Of course. I live in Amsterdam, it is in my backyard. I am a fan and I hope to be there for sure. Especially because there is always a very nice atmosphere at tournaments in the Netherlands. In recent years I have often been able to combine these kinds of matches in the Wagener Stadium with my work. I would really like it if that was possible again.‘

With the men I sincerely hope that the Netherlands will win Olympic gold, but I honestly think it will be Belgium. Or maybe Australia.

What are your expectations for the Orange teams this year?

‘I am very curious whether the competitions in the competing countries will continue like the Dutch big league. And if not, whether this results in differences. In any case, the women are the top favorites for Olympic gold. They are so very good. The top is much wider for men. It is super exciting there. I sincerely hope that the Netherlands wins, but I honestly think it will be Belgium. Or maybe Australia.‘

Hockey World News

Freixa’s departure from Amsterdam: logical, or a victim of rejuvenation?

Santi Freixa as coach from Amsterdam. Photo: Bart Scheulderman

With a strongly rejuvenated selection, Amsterdam coach Santi Freixa had to make a serious shot at the first national title since the 2011/2012 season from his appointment eighteen months ago. Because he has insufficiently succeeded in this, according to Amsterdam, the club does not extend his expiring contract. A logical decision, or are the expectations unrealistic?

“By including many new, young and talented players in the group, Santi has been able to make a nice mark,” Amsterdam wrote on the club website about three weeks ago.'At the same time, the desired results have not yet been achieved. After this season, the team will continue to build with a different approach to play hockey at the top for a long time.'

‘We have not settled Santi on seven games’

Towards the end of the 2018/2019 season, then Amsterdam coach Graham Reid resigned to become the national coach of India. As successor, Amsterdam appointed Freixa, a boy from the club. In 2007 the Spaniard came as a player to Heren 1, with which he became national champion in the 2010/2011 season. As a trainer, he gained experience at Kampong Dames 1 from 2016 to 2019, with which he achieved varying successes. With the Dutch national team, he was assistant to national coach Alyson Annan until the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Amsterdam ended in seventh place in the first season led by Freixa – the aborted corona year – after fifteen games. This season, Amsterdam is sixth after seven games, three points behind a playoff spot. Only relegation teams Hurley and Almere won.

‘We have not judged Santi on seven games. There are too few to draw conclusions from,'says Klaas Veering, board member of Tophockey Amsterdam.'We mainly see structurally that we have to take a step to join the top. We expect that a different coach will be needed for that.'

Santi Freixa as assistant to Alyson Annan at the Oranje Dames. Photo: Koen Suyk

Freixa had to build a new team with young, recruited players

Amsterdam has been dreaming of a new league title for nine years. The club wants to participate structurally for the prizes. That has not yet been successful under Freixa, although he also had to build a new team with a lot of young players. Isn’t the story, among other things, that Amsterdam has not selected for years, that it is now finally doing, but it is still unfair to expect the club to have the best team in the Netherlands within one or two years?

‘It is no secret that we may indeed have relied too long on our permanent core internationals. We have performed well with this for years, but we have not been able to take the next step and bind the next batch of the Dutch national team to us’, says Veering.

‘Now we are busy with that rejuvenation. With Floris Middendorp, Brent van Bijnen, Ties Klinkhamer and Teun Kropholler, we have many players from the Dutch Juniors. This year Valentijn Charbon, Daan Dekker (both Almere) and Luke Dommershuijzen (Ede) have joined us. A number of A’s have already played. In that respect, things are going well. I also don’t expect a coach to wave a magic wand and we will have immediate success with all those young players. But we do think we should strive for the step to the top with the guys we have now. Perhaps that is difficult, it is not for nothing that we have not become national champions for so long. But it suits the club to be ambitious.'

We think we should strive for the step to the top with the guys we have now. It suits the club to be ambitious.

Veering believes that Amsterdam has the qualities to compete for the prizes.'In addition to the large group of young talents in the selection, we have a number of top internationals, including the captain of the Dutch team (Billy Bakker, ed.), As well as a group of fantastic and stable hockey players. Only: we perform too unsteadily. That’s why we’ve come to the conclusion that something needs to change. That is in many things. A number of changes will be made, and we have started with the guidance.'

Santi Freixa as Kampong’s coach. Photo: OrangePictures / Hans van der Valk

It’s not that we think Santi is too close to the group or that he coaches too emotionally.

Much has been said and written about Freixa’s appointment eighteen months ago. Is he, now 37 years old, too close to the players he has played with in the past? Isn’t he too emotional down the line? Does he have a good grasp of the trainer’s trade?

However, these are not aspects that have now played a role in Amsterdam’s decision, says Veering.'Santi is a super good coach. That is not the problem. What may play a role rather is which coach represents which group at which time. I do think it is an advantage that he comes from Amsterdam. He knows the club well and so do the boys. At times that might be a disadvantage, that’s right. But it’s not that we feel he is too close to the group or that he coaches too emotionally. Nor can we give one reason why we should not continue with him. It’s the whole picture.'

It is still unknown who will be the successor to Freixa. Amsterdam is now orientating itself, says Veering.'It is not that we already have someone in mind and therefore do not renew Santi’s contract. We are now looking around. We want to think about it carefully. The advantage of the fact that we made the decision about Santi early on is that we now have enough time to find a successor.'

Hockey World News

Camil Papa ‘amazed’ at his Dutch goal of the year strike

A sublime bit of circle ‘tip-in’ skill from Camil Papa has seen the Klein Zwitserland striker awarded Dutch goal of the year.

View the goal here

Papa’s magical goal earlier in this stuttering season was viewed in its hundreds of thousands on social media and applauded globally. It was his first goal since returning to the Hoofdklasse from Barcelona last summer.

“I was stunned myself,” the 23-year-old quipped to hockey.nl. “Everyone I know from the hockey world has said something about it.”

Papa’s beautifully balanced goal – made all the more special in slow motion – was captured on the first weekend when the Dutch public was unable to attend top flight matches due to the pandemic.

“KZ has a nice audience that goes very fanatically to away games,” he added.

“In retrospect, it is a pity that very few people attended live due to the tightened measures. Fortunately, the goal is clearly visible on the screen and everyone has seen it on social media. ‘

“People are full of praise and especially wonder how exactly I did that action. To be honest, I found it quite difficult to respond to all of that, because I was amazed myself.

“It will be a moment to remember. It’s very cool that that goal has now also been awarded Goal of the Year.”

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The Hockey Paper

How Playing Abroad Helped Team USA’s Ally Hammel

By Uru Sports

She’s a two-time All-American, Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, Northeast Region Player of the Year and now a member of the U.S. Women's National Team. Ally Hammel’s accolades are impressive, but doesn’t come close to describing her unique path to the top, and how she decided to continue her field hockey growth after graduating Boston University.

With big dreams, an undying love for the game, an open mindset, and a little help from Uru Sports, Ally Hammel was able to uncover the next steps of her field hockey journey. Upon graduating in 2019, Hammel packed her bags for Tokyo, Japan for the field hockey experience of a lifetime on the Uru World Team competing in the Gryphon Tokyo Cup.

Hammel reminisces on playing alongside 15 other elite athletes from eight different countries. The team was self-coached, but Marcelle Keet and Naomi Evans on South African and Australian top teams, respectively, took on the role of captain. She spoke highly of the unique mix of coaching styles, saying it: “was very cool and led to a lot of intense fun having both legitimate players that were also legitimate coaches.”

Her teammates differed in nationality and in age. These differences, Hammel explained, exposed her to a very quick, fast game as well as different perspectives of the daring young players to the wise older players who had played together for years. The older teammates had already played on national teams representing their countries in global competitions. Hammel mentioned: “I view them as an inspiration, since [playing for my country] is a dream of mine. It could have been very intimidating to play with other national team athletes, but instead the team had a very warm welcoming environment that each teammate helped to create.”

Not only was she exposed to new teammates, and tough competitors, but the Tokyo Cup was also important for growth off the pitch. Hammel could explore the city, meet the other competitors, and enjoy the hockey community. “I think flying to Tokyo and playing abroad with a group where I knew no one has given me a lot of confidence.” Hammel said, “I was exposed to a completely new environment and came in not knowing anyone.”

Although it is a situation that seemed intimidating, Hammel had Uru Sports to lean on. When asked about Uru’s role Ally stated: “They facilitated the whole thing. They took care of organizing flights and hotels, and made sure I was in contact with girls on the team. I was nervous because it was my first time flying internationally alone, so they had a girl on the team watch out for me as well as everyone on the team. They made sure I was good to go and that I was happy the whole time.” She may have come into the situation not knowing anything about the location or people but she came out with new friends, connections, exposure to a multitude of cultures, and a new understanding of the world.

Ally Hammel’s time playing abroad in Tokyo was a step in her field hockey journey and came back to the United States ready to play in top competition with Team USA. She believes that her abroad experience played a role in where she is now and would advise field hockey players to find similar experiences that work for them. “It’s important that athletes advocate for themselves to find new opportunities. Understand what exactly is being offered, and seek out opportunities that can accommodate what you’re looking for. There are a lot of experiences that can be tailored to what you need more than you may think.”

From coming back from the Tokyo Cup, Hammel brings a new outlook on the game, and inspiration to many. “I gained a better understanding of what it takes to play at such a high level, and how other people think and see the game differently. Field hockey is fun and it’s a very special global community. I want to continue to help others fully take advantage of everything hockey has to offer.” Since Tokyo, Hammel has received her first cap for Team USA, and plans on continuing growing for the FIH Hockey Pro League games sometime in 2021.

USFHA media release

Keeping Connected Through Lockdown

Image courtesy of Old Loughtonians Hockey Club.

The tightening of tier restrictions followed by the onset of a third national lockdown has hit hockey clubs across the country hard. Leagues and competitions have ground to a halt, despite the best efforts of everyone to keep things going; holiday camps have had to be cancelled; training has ceased.

During the first lockdown online training and online courses were brought into use, demonstrating the hockey community’s ability to adapt and innovate. Online fitness activities, Zoom coffee mornings between team mates and brushing up on areas of coaching and umpiring that could be delivered online were among the variety of ways that technology was employed to maintain a sense of togetherness.

One club has taken the third lockdown period to dive a little deeper into that sense of togetherness within a club, using social media to engage with the club members on both short-term campaigns and to form a strategy to drive long-term changes within the team.

It is a process that started last Autumn, but which has gathered pace in recent months. At Old Loughtonians Hockey Club, a committee of eight people from across the range of club members has been formed with a brief to develop a positive culture around the club – focusing on equality, diversity, inclusivity and belonging- which came as a direct response to concerns over racial discrimination.

Matt Smylie is one of the committee members and he explains that there are some things that are taking place immediately, while others will take a little longer to put in place.

“We have launched Red January within the club,” he says, “which is already gaining traction, with more than 30 people signed up.”

Red January is a mental wellbeing sports initiative that encourages people to get active every day throughout January. At Old Loughtonians the club has encouraged members to download the Strava app which records time spent exercising and the amount of energy expended. The club members are signing up to a club challenge to log the most energy spent - whatever the activity.

“We knew we wouldn’t get a full uptake because it is a new idea but hopefully it will provide a foundation for future campaigns,” says Matt. “We didn’t want to set a challenge that was too specific because people have different needs and do different activities. So our elite players might decide to join in a ‘fastest five kilometre challenge’, but other members might concentrate on overall distance or time spent exercising. We have one member who is doing a series of HITT routines and dance classes, which all count.”

With two of the committee members involved in mental health professionally, the importance of physical activity to mental health is well recognised. The information that the committee shared about Red January also contained links to several mental health organisations so people knew where to go to for help.

As Matt says, “even if it helps one person, it is worth it.”

A second campaign that would have taken place in February was Rainbow Laces, in support of LGBT+. But, as Matt says, with no hockey activity, this highly visual campaign may now have to be postponed until players return to the pitch.

Another immediate action the committee has launched is a survey to all club members. Led by Pranitha De Souza, this will provide the benchmark for future work. The survey seeks to explore what people think of the club, its policies and how it deals with issues such as discrimination, exclusion and bullying.

Even before the results of the survey are in, the club is setting up an anonymous hotline where people can email in their concerns. This will allow incidents to be brought up in a confidential and directed manner.

In the coming weeks and months the club is running education courses for coaches and umpires that look at things such as unconscious bias within the sports environment. The club’s education policy is led by Stuart Hurwitz and will be exploring a number of ways to spread the message of diversity across its membership. For example, one club member, Karen Sticher, is the CEO of a Learning and Development company and will be working with club members to allow them to deliver diversity and inclusivity training.

Next season, in a project led by committee member Anna Dingle, the Essex club will be launching a series of outreach programmes in local state schools. And chair of the group, Simon Beckley, is hoping to re-ignite a partnership with Arsenal Football Club. In this programme in recognition of the shared skills and games awareness between the two sports, Arsenal Foundation coaches signpost children to the hockey club. Former England international Darren Cheesman is a success story from this partnership in its previous iteration.

Also, from the start of next season, the club’s youth teams will be presented with a talk on expected behaviours and club values. The ambition is quite clear, Old Loughts want to become a beacon club for inclusivity and diversity.

“In some ways the lockdown has afforded us new opportunities”, says Matt. “It has slowed things down. Two of our committee members, Gurmit Dhillon and Bob Narwal, are coaches, so they have been able to spend more time working with us on what needs to be done to make the playing and coaching environment more inclusive.

“As a group, we are very energetic about achieving our aims and are delighted with club members’ early responses to make Old Loughts great both on and off the pitch.”

England Hockey Board Media release

Hockey-starved players join ‘Hamsters’ group to stay active

A fitness Facebook group to give people a sense of community and support when exercising on their own in lockdown has been created by hockey lovers.

The Hockey Hamsters group has 150 members and posts offer encouragement to keep fit with no hockey currently allowed.

“I came up with the idea Hockey Hamsters to try and motivate each other to get out there and exercise,” said chief organiser Chris Birch, of Bicester HC. “It has a major mental health impact behind it.

“As lockdown started to relax and first training and then playing came back, I noticed how stressful the whole sport ban had been on players’ mental health.

“I also run a rush hockey group that plays every Monday year around and these players in the group noticed the lack of opportunity to have a run around, a laugh and a giggle with fellow rush players which was taking its toll.

“As rumours began for a return to hockey more of these tensions and a desperation to play hockey again began to surface in many people in my hockey network.”

Trained as a parasitologist, Birch realised that the second lockdown was going to hit hockey players harder, with winter looming. As with many projects, the Hamsters idea was conjured late at night over a few beers.

Founding member Chris Birch

He added: “The framework of the group is very simple, you exercise in hamsters (5km) or hamster pups (1km) and post your adventures in the facebook group. We also have squirrel missions so before going out you set yourself some goals like “see a squirrel” or “quack at a duck” or “wave at a dog”.”

Birch says that the sense of community has also helped with the loneliness “many of us are feeling without face to face to contact with our hockey club families.”

Birch added: “We have members from across the country and some with injuries and chronic illnesses and they have said Hockey Hamsters gave them the motivation to get out there and do some exercise even if only a pup.

“Life without hockey is hard but Hockey hamsters is bringing a little lockdown cheer across the country. My ongoing squirrel mission is – I would like for two Hockey Hamsters in Hockey Hamster gear to be out exercising and meet one another by accident having never met before and strike up a socially distanced conversation “You’re a hamster too!”

A website is in the offing while other ideas such as the Hockey Hamster cookbook are being considered.

Join Hockey Hamsters on Facebook

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The Hockey Paper

North Kildare’s Fionnuala O’Malley the latest volunteer honoured

Fionnuala O’Malley in coaching action

North Kildare’s Fionnuala O’Malley has been named as Leinster Hockey’s December 2020 Volunteer of the Month Award.

She is the driving force behind the youth section of the club and, for over a decade, has given up her weekends to organise coaches and activities for the growing junior section at the Maws, now numbering over 200 from tiny tots to Under 16s.  

Not content with that, Fionnuala also organises safety seminars, Covid 19 planning, coach development workshops, blitz events, fundraising and is a dab hand at baking cakes and teas as well.

Liz Hassett, North Kildare Secretary, added: “our club would be lost without her organisation and dedication and Fionnuala’s contributions to the success of the club are immeasurable”.

Junior Coach Daniel McSweeney added that he had never known anyone to “work so hard and selflessly for a club”.

Leinster Hockey Chair, Trevor Watkins, congratulated Fionnuala on her award and thanked her for her work both within North Kildare HC and the Kildare region.

The Leinster Hockey Development Committee has been delighted with the response to the new “Volunteer of the Month” awards that were introduced in September and in particular with the calibre of nominations received each month.

In the current challenging times, it is extremely uplifting to see the work being done around the province.

The nominations received by the Committee recognise volunteers in all areas of our sport – coaches, umpires, administrators, Children’s Officers, Covid Officers, committee members, fundraisers, social media secretaries – all of whom play a hugely important function within their clubs.  Development Director, Fiona Walshe, thanked everyone for their submissions and in particular thanked all volunteers for “their tireless work” adding that “our success as a sport is attributed to their willingness and passion to see hockey grow and reach as many people as possible”.

The Hook

Vale Shirley Leece

Hockey Australia is saddened to hear of the passing of Life Member Shirley Leece at the age of 89.

Shirley was well-known and respected by all in the Western Australian hockey scene, through her numerous efforts to involve herself within the sport for most of her life.

Shirley’s volunteering for hockey began in Busselton where she coached junior teams and umpired matches at all levels.

Shirley went above and beyond in all instances and travelled across the state to present discussions on umpiring techniques and the rules of hockey, as well as being heavily involved in the delivery of Country Week.

Shirley was an extremely talented umpire, umpiring from the grassroots to the international level, delivering her expertise as one of the inaugural WA junior umpire program organisers and coaches.

Upon retiring from umpiring, Shirley continued her involvement in the sport by becoming enthralled in the technical side of officiating.

"Shirley’s contribution to HOCKEY is recognised and respected far and wide. Her relentless advocacy and encouragement in support of women in HOCKEY will be remembered for many years." Pam Tye (former Hockey Australia President)

"My earliest memory of Shirley is that we used to mark the hockey grounds at Busselton on a Saturday morning. There was a huge pile of sawdust off the edge of the football ground - yes, we played on the footy oval and we would grab handfuls of it and “run” bent over backwards along the sideline trailing the sawdust through our fingers. Some warm up! Shirley carried her burden of cancer for many years with such humour and grace. We will all miss her." Wendy Pritchard (Hockey Australia Hall of Fame inductee)

Shirley involved herself with the FIH, working tirelessly to bring WA hockey in-line with the technical requirements of the FIH and Hockey Australia, resulting in significant advancement for the sport in Western Australia.

Shirley’s expertise led to her appointment as Tournament Director for many interstate championships, as well as membership in the Hockey Australia Technical Committee.

She was also appointed as a judge for numerous international championships, showcasing her dedication to the sport at all levels.

On top of working tirelessly in the officiating side of hockey, Shirley also acted as a selector and manager for many state teams.

Shirley’s achievements result in a resume to match the best; she was a member of the WA Women’s Hockey Association Executive, a WA delegate to Hockey Australia, a recipient of the 2000 Australian Sports Medal, a recipient of the WA Government’s 50 year Volunteer service badge, recognised through Hockey Australia’s State Service Award and received the Reg Goodridge Service Award & May Campbell Award for her services to hockey.

Her greatest honour came in the form of life membership for both Hockey WA and Hockey Australia.

Shirley was a highly regarded, loveable and memorable figure in hockey in Western Australia, and her commitments and passion for the sport will be dearly missed by all.

Shirley’s husband John received a HA Award of Merit in 2016 for over 60 years of service to hockey in WA, their son Terry played for Australia and their daughter Nola Bezant has umpired at the top level.

Hockey Australia and the hockey community extends its sincere condolences to John, Terry, Nola and family.

Hockey Australia wishes to thank Hockey WA for the information.

Hockey Australia media release

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