Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How disability duo have put ‘hockey on the map up north again’

As England Hockey headed into EuroHockey mode this month, for Rob Crosse and Brendan Creed, the 2023 edition will hopefully yield an opportunity to catch-up on a friendship built through hockey.

Crosse was part of the GB Intellectual Disability hockey team that took gold in the Special Olympics World Games in June. It was a subsequent England Hockey awards dinner where his friendship with Creed was born.

“It was just a really nice evening, getting to know Rob, along with Lochlan Kaye, over the course of a three-hour dinner,” Creed reflects. “We were also sat with some of the guys from East Grinstead so it was just a really enjoyable atmosphere for the evening.”

For Crosse, the beginning of their friendship was natural. “I thought he was a really nice bloke,” he says.

Since then, the pair have supported each other in their respective hockey endeavours and will be hoping to do the same at the upcoming European Championships.

“Fingers crossed we’ll be able to watch these guys out in Germany as well,” adds Creed. As far as advice goes, however, it’s all one-way.

“I haven’t got anything to offer him,” the Surbiton defender declares. “The man is scoring bucket loads of goals and I can’t help him with that.”

Crosse’s recent victory at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin is certainly testament to this. He represented the ID GB hockey squad and scored four goals in the final to help the team win gold in their debut appearance.

“I was just so proud of winning every time,” he tells The Hockey Paper. “That’s why I’ve got a smile on my face every now and again.”

Such success at the Special Olympics came just a year after England claimed gold at the Euro Hockey ID Championships 2022 where Crosse’s goalscoring prowess was also on show. He finished as the team’s top scorer with 12 goals to his name.

Crosse is aiming to replicate this success in the upcoming European Championships but remains realistic about the challenge.

“That would be very nice but really hard,” he suggests. “We have to try our best, or you could say, work our socks off.”

Brendan in previous EuroHockey action against Germany PIC: World Sport Pics / England Hockey

For Creed, England men’s team have similar aspirations, “I think the team is in a great place going into it. So, you’ve got to back yourself really, haven’t you, or else you’re probably in the wrong place.”

“Everyone’s feeling pretty confident. There are two things at stake, the tournament itself, but also qualification for Paris. There’s an opportunity there to really take the tournament by the scruff of the neck.”

This will be the first time since the tournament was hosted in Antwerp in 2019 that the men’s, women’s and ID Hockey European Championships have all been held at the same venue.

As part of the England squad in 2019 Creed remembers, “it was a really nice atmosphere. We managed to go down and watch, both the women’s and the ID hockey stuff. I think having it in one place just makes it a more meaningful tournament.”

He suggests it is reflective of the inclusivity that hockey as a sport prides itself on. An inclusivity that his friendship with Crosse has enabled him to reflect on.

“For me it’s just nice to appreciate that everyone’s got a different journey. The fact that people make it no matter what the circumstances.”

For Crosse, hockey has not always been accessible. The prolific England forward now plays his club hockey at Wakefield Hockey Club with their Flyerz provision, but that hasn’t always been the case.

He discovered hockey at eight-years-old. “Me and my mum watched a match together and when I first experienced that I said, ‘that is one of the fastest games I’ve seen!’”

But Crosse was unable play hockey immediately, instead it was another two years until he found a club he could join.

Now Flyerz hockey, a grassroots disability programme, has much greater provision across the country with Wakefield Flyerz home to three of the gold-medal-winning GB squad.

“As a Manchester boy myself I’m really appreciative of the way in which Lochlann Kaye and Rob have really put hockey on the map up north again,” Creed continues. “It’s just a real thanks to those guys and the work that they’ve been doing.”

Crosse hopes that hosting major hockey tournaments at the same venue for all teams will provide a greater platform for ID hockey and facilitate the growth of Flyerz hockey back home.

“We are all part of one big family, a hockey family, so we should be together. We all play for England!”

Total Hockey

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