The sun came out and it seemed like a good idea to leave the comfort and security of my office to go and watch some tense drama on the astro pitch, as I had failed to get a ticket for Harry Waterworth’s production of Amadeus.
The 1st XI girls’ hockey team were playing a three-way tournament against Moreton Hall and Ellesmere College, vying to be the best girls’ under-18 hockey team in Shropshire. I arrived to find I had missed the opening goal scored by Georgie Nicholas, as Shrewsbury went 1-0 up against Moreton.
I got out my camera to take lots of action shots so that I could share some of the highlights of the match with you all. Sadly, there was a technical hitch which meant the camera refused to take any pictures. I asked a couple of the Ellesmere girls who weren't playing if any of them did Photography and could help an ancient technophobe work a modern piece of equipment. They ruefully confessed that Photography was not an option at Ellesmere. This was a blow, as I sensed Hockey expert and 1st team coach Miss Emma Davies might not appreciate me wandering on to the pitch to ask the Shrewsbury Photography A Level students in the team how to work the camera. I did ask her later if she would have minded such an encroachment and she told me, “I would not have appreciated such an action”, which proves that I was right in my thinking.
So I decided to head over to the Photography Department to see if I could find an expert to help me. This was when I ran into Computing and IT specialist Paul Kaye. “I am not really a photographer, but I will have a look at it for you”, he kindly informed me. Sadly, he was unable to help, and so I showed the camera to Marie Nuijten who was working on her A Level Photography project. She picked up the camera, took a picture and all was perfectly fine. I thanked Marie and left the building without any understanding of how exactly the issue had been resolved, but a clear realisation that she has magical powers.
I made my way swiftly back to the hockey pitch to find that I had not missed any goals and it was still 1-0 to Shrewsbury, courteousy of the Georgiana Nicholas goal I mentioned earlier.
With just a few minutes left, I was surprised to see the Moreton coach take off their goalkeeper, as they went in search of an equaliser. It was then pointed out to me by a section of the knowledgeable crowd (Ruby Read, India Wilkinson and Ellie Kynaston) that taking off the goalkeeper gave the Moreton team an extra outfield player and therefore a numerical strength that could lead to a goal.
Luckily it did not, and Shrewsbury won, courteousy of the Georgie Nicholas goal I may have referred to already.
I asked Georgie to talk me through the goal, as I explained I had arrived too late to witness it. Georgie told me that a flowing Shrewsbury move had seen Tabitha Winkley charging down the right and smacking the ball towards the goal. Tabitha was unlucky that she did not score herself, and the ball somehow ended up quite near Georgie, who dived like a swallow and just managed to reach the ball with the end of her outstretched stick.
Captain Eleanor ‘The Wall’ Niblett told me that it was a text book finish and that she had never seen a better goal. “It was as if Georgie was flying,” she said.
I asked Miss Davies how she thought the game had gone. “I am delighted with the result,” she replied. "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me." Miss Davies admitted that she does not get out that much as she is such a dedicated coach that she spends most of her evenings poring over hockey tactical text books and coaching manuals. She also watches a lot of past matches to recreate golden moments with her teams. “I love hockey,” she told me. Miss Davies is also on the Shropshire Hockey Development team; in a nutshell, she is the Queen of Shropshire Hockey. She is also an inspirational coach, and when Moreton beat Ellesmere 2-0 it looked as if the pre-tournament favourites from Ellesmere might be in for a shock.
To increase team morale, I had brought with me a few healthy sweets to boost energy levels and bribe members of the team be photographed for this article. Lara Ockleston, Adelaide Sillar and Laura Elliot were all composing themselves before the big game and were easily bribed.
Adelaide needed several sweets, as her leg continues to recover from stitches after a clash in a game a few weeks ago. She is not the only player to have been injured this season, as Charlotte Russell had to disappear to the San briefly. According to Miss Davies, Charlotte takes after her sister Jetty who also had no sense of self-preservation. “Heading the ball in hockey is not generally advised,” she added.
Lara Ockleston was keen to congratulate goal-scorer Georgie Nicholas. She felt it was important for Georgie to have a couple of energy-boosting sweets as she was concerned that Georgie’s stamina was waning. “At one point she lay down in the goal mouth through sheer exhaustion. It was lucky the ball hit the end of her stick and went in the goal,” Lara told me.
Emma Davies then gathered her hockey supremos together for a team talk before the match against Ellesmere – a team that contained three national league players. Despite the competitiveness of the opposition coach, Miss Davies was not going to stop enjoying what was ostensibly the county final.
Messrs Middleton and Walters were spotted discussing the finer points of the game, although having spotted Charlotte Russel’s injury they thought it best not to get too close to the action. “I am a founder member of the self-preservation society,” Mr Middleton admitted.
Also, in the crowd was a proud Abberley Hall pairing of Will and Beth Lockett as at least five of the Shrewsbury team had grown up under their watchful eyes, including their daughter, Hestor.
After a fine example of hockey at its best, the Ellesmere team managed to sneak a few goals past the Shrewsbury defence and the awesome Eleanor Niblett and ran out 4-0 victors and county champions on goal difference. Miss Davies was really pleased with the home team’s performance and was effusive in praise of her players who had certainly played at their best and tried their hardest. Laura Elliot was crowned Player of the Week for an outstanding defensive display, but it genuinely was a team effort.
Can you believe the team were so tired they need more of my ‘healthy’ sweets to aid them back to their houses?
The Shrewsbury team were… Georgina Cooper, Hester Lockett, Nell Ware, Tabitha Winkley, Catrin Heath, Charlie-Jo Jones, Georgiana Nicholas, Charlotte Russell, Adelaide Sillar, Laura Elliott, Eleanor Niblett (Captain) and Lara Ockleston.