Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Laura Unsworth: England and GB’s underappreciated great of world hockey

If you were to name the modern day greats from Great Britain’s women’s squad, the list would most likely feature the likes of Alex Danson, Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, Hollie Pearne-Webb and Maddie Hinch.  

You can argue the order of the list till the cows come home, but give or take, the choices wouldn’t deviate an awful lot from those above.  

I have absolutely no quibble with any of them.

They are fantastic players who achieved a hell of a lot and who contributed a massive amount to British hockey. But there’s a name that’s often absent from such conversations that in my view should be in there every single time. How many of you said Laura Unsworth?  

Statistically, Unsworth, 34, is the greatest hockey Olympian Great Britain has ever produced. At Tokyo 2020 she became the first player to win medals at three different Games, collecting a bronze to go with the one she won at London 2012 and the gold she came home from Rio with.    

You won’t see her post much on social media. You’ll likely not see too many TV interviews with her. And that’s her to a tee, really. Happy to go under the radar and keep to herself.  
 
As England began their FIH Pro League campaign in Argentina at the tail end of February there was a lot of focus on the new chapter, the new faces. All the while, the diminutive No 4, who has over 300 international caps, lined up for the team and just quietly went about her business – as she always does.   

Laura Unsworth looks for space upfield PIC: GB Hockey/Worldsportpics

Unsworth made her international debut back in 2008 and has been present for some of British hockey’s highest highs as well as some more difficult times. I wondered if she might call it a day after the Tokyo Olympics but it appears the lure of a home Commonwealth Games was too tempting for her to ignore.

She’s said that the chance to represent her country where it all started would be ‘one of the highlights’ of her career adding that she was in no rush to call it a day as ‘you’re a long time retired.’ 

“I remember when I was a Midlands junior, she was one of the older juniors and she hasn’t really changed since then,” her GB captain, Hollie Pearne-Webb, told The Hockey Paper recently. “Relentless is the best word for her and which is why she has been so successful and will continue to be.

“Laura is a real rock in the middle for us, both on and off the pitch. She is a really consistent performer and it’s a real pleasure to play alongside her.”

It may be that Unsworth doesn’t receive the acclaim she is due until after she has retired. Once the Great Britain and England sides are without her composure, outstanding reading of the game, distribution and will to win, perhaps those qualities will be noticed by more people.

Now that she has won the Commonwealth collection, adding gold to her silver and bronze. What a player. What a star.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Laura Unsworth is indeed one of the top players for GB/England. Watching matches (online, as I do), I can always spot her from 3,000 miles away: head up, scanning the field, advancing the ball slowly, then winding up and whacking a perfect pass to a teammate in motion 40, 50, 60 or more yards away. She is brilliant and a joy to watch. Hope to see her play in person someday soon.

  2. Yes indeed the pocket rocket is an inspiration and role model for any player. She has all the skills, particularly the telling passes. She reads the game brilliantly. Opponents can surround her, but somehow she can wriggle free and create an attacking move from defence. I like the way she can burst through and link up with the attack. I’d like to see her being allowed to do more of that, and do more follow up shots. Whether playing for England or her club she gives 100 per cent and never tires. One to follow.

  3. Underappreciated great of GB Hockey – Definitely.

    A great of world hockey ? – would she get in the Dutch team – seems a good test to see whether someone is a world great in the womens game.

    I don’t watch enough games to judge, but would think she is one of the few from the Eng/GB squad that would get very close.

  4. Not only a great international, but tremendously loyal club player. Always happy to talk to supporters, and especially to younger players. A great ambassador for club and country.

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