This week I have been invited to talk to the School’s premier girls’ hockey team. So far they have had a good season and the new signings are settling in well. This year, new coach Katie Collins (KC) has been added to the existing coaching team of Chris Cook and Nicola Bradburne. I visited the squad at training before their big local derby with local rivals and county champions Moreton Hall. KC and her 'sunshine band' were in sparkling form and although they knew they were in for a tough time against the Moreton Marvels, confidence and fortitude were not in short supply.
They are a deeply philosophical and rational bunch of young women and that quickly became apparent in our conversation. I asked well respected captain, strong, cool and calm defender Eliza Wood how she perceived the team. “We are like the Trinity, everywhere but indivisible,” she replied. Senior pro and jovial but focused midfielder Gabby Byrne was quick to add, “As soon as that whistle blows we are united as one.” Gabby continued to tell me that she regarded the team in a familial sense. “We are like a family,” she said. I asked her to expand on this statement and after a lengthy period of reflection (during which the squad could probably have worked on their short corner routines), she replied: “We are like sisters.” When asked how they felt about the impending dual with Moreton, Charlie Perkins, the team’s great transitional midfielder, commented: “We are sick.” (I think she meant that they were good enough to defeat Moreton rather than they were sick of my questions or sick with fear.)
I asked the coaching team what I could expect to see on the pitch in the match. ‘The’ Cook is keen to stick to his principles of exciting, well presented, spicy hockey with a sprinkling of goals and a garnish of goalmouth action. KC was concerned that the forecast of rain might affect the ‘sunshine band’. KC was right to be concerned, as the weather was not good and as the clouds rolled in, the crowd began looking for shelter. Women’s hockey has been attracting bigger crowds of late and it was good to see Miss Woo, Miss Rule and Miss Peak shoulder to shoulder in the West Stand. At the start of the match the usually sanguine Cook was in particularly good form, having just won the Shrewsbury bake off. He was confident that his diamond formations would help the girls ‘do the trick’ - after all, as he told me, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”.
I had brought four-legged hockey expert Ted with me to watch, as he can usually sniff out a goal. I could tell he was enjoying the game from the pressure he was exerting on his lead. The goals went in, but in the wrong end and although the Shrewsbury team tried their best and peppered the Moreton goal, they could find no way past the goalkeeper. Sadly she continued throughout the match to thwart the usually razor-sharp strike force of Cecy Price, Alice Sykes-Waller and Antonia Schueler, and the score eventually reached 5-0 to Moreton.
After the game Mr Cook told me: “We were well roasted today. At least we kept our composure and emotions did not boil over. Perhaps we were a little under done in terms of our preparation. That can be a recipe for disaster. There have been a few issues simmering under the surface but we will bounce back with a tasty performance next game. I am drawing up an intense training menu for half term.” Miss Collins was similarly upbeat. "The end result did not reflect the game’s play. However it has highlighted many areas for us to focus on after half term. With the team unity we have, I am sure we will come back fighting and aim to finish this season on a high."
Despite this particular result, there is a great spirit in this team. The squad consists of Eliza Wood, Charlotte Harris, Charlotte Perkins, Alice Sykes Waller, Gabby Byrne, Edie Whittingham, Millie Dean, Esmé O’Keeffe, Mary Parrott, Cecy Price, Antonia Schueler, Jo Cull, Tory Mobley, Phoebe Barboza, Nicola Spruyt, Raphie Major and Daisy Raichura.