Friday, June 14, 2024

St Helens, the reformed hockey club on the rise

St Helens Hockey Club is a club on the rise. Like a phoenix from the ashes they are taking the amateur sport by storm.

In 2008 the club folded and had a seven-year hiatus. It was then reformed in 2015 by current treasurer, John Graham, and a new dawn rose. Starting off with enough players to field one men’s team they quickly progressed, winning their first league title in 2016.

In 2019 the club had grown, and the decision was taken to expand the current squad to two men’s teams.

Lee Ellison, the goalkeeper for the Men’s 2s team, joined the club in 2019. “I contacted the club as they had an open day planned, but I was unable to attend,” he says.

“I said ‘I am an overweight, unfit, 44 year old, am I wasting your time and mine?’ The club were amazing and said that I was more than welcome to come down. The youngest member at that time was 13 and the oldest 65, they were all different ages and abilities. I originally played at left back and pushed myself to do better each week.

He continued: “I started to cover the goalkeeping role as and when our current keeper couldn’t make matches, and found I enjoyed this more and more. When the position became available, I put myself forward and have played there for the last three seasons.

“The group are extremely supportive and encouraging, pushing each other to be the best they can be, irrespective of whether you play for competition or enjoyment. They are such a fantastic group and make everyone feel part of the team. I have made some true friends for life, and it has been great for my physical and mental health. I am now the current Safeguarding Officer and Social Secretary for the club, hoping to pay the club back in whatever way possible for the support they have given to me.”

Last year the club introduced their first women’s section to the club, and they have been inundated with ladies and girls coming down to train and play.

The ladies outdid themselves throughout the season, going on to win the North West Development Cup in their first season. They have grown so much, that the club are looking to expand to add a second ladies’ team in the coming season, with the hope to start a juniors section coming soon.

Sarah-Jane (SJ) the current women’s captain said: “I joined St Helens Hockey Club in July 2022, when I moved to Newton-le-Willows from Mansfield. I originally joined to start a hobby and make some friends. I quickly realised how passionate everyone is and how committed the club members are to the sport of hockey. When we started the season, I was scared and incredibly unfit, I can remember.

“My first ever game, looking at the sheer size of the pitch in fear and wondering how the heck I was going to be able to run around without dying!

“The women needed a captain and someone to do the admin. As a natural bossy boots, I put myself forward, not realising the magnitude of the role. With the support of my girls, the fellow men’s captains, I began to find my feet as well as my confidence as a captain and as a player. I lived for Tuesday night training and our matches.

St Helens have been successful with funding PIC: Danny Jackson

“In the final weeks of the season the competitive streak in me came out and the determination to push the ladies and perform at my absolute best shone through. I now cannot imagine my life without hockey or being a part of St Helens Hockey Club. I love everything about it and what we stand for. I am incredibly excited about entering the league as a ladies team, not just a development team and playing with fellow passionate and competitive women, who are not only my team mates and friends, but my family.

For more, seee St Helens HC

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