Nick Bandurak made history on Wednesday after becoming the first male or female athlete to win the Hockey Writers’ Club (HWC) Player of the Year award three times in successon. Meanwhile, Laura Roper won the women’s award for the first time.
Bandurak was awarded Mercian-sponsored male player of the year at the HWC’s 40th annual awards presentation at Royal Thames Yacht Club in London, while Roper won the Mercian women’s award following voting by HWC members.
Bandurak, who won in 2021 and 2022, said: “It’s such a huge honour to win the Hockey Writers’ Club UK Men’s Player of the Year Award for 2023. To have my name alongside such a prestigious group through the history of British hockey is humbling and something I will never take for granted.
Bandurak has played 57 times for GB and England and scored 43 goals. He now joins Jane Sixsmith, Barry Middleton, his coach at Holcombe, Kate Richardson-Walsh and Maddie Hinch as a three-time winner.
“I’ve been lucky enough to join the programme at a really exciting time for men’s hockey in the UK and I’m looking forward to seeing the levels to which this Great Britain squad can take it in the coming year and beyond.”
The Hockey Writers’ Club said: “In recognising Nick’s outstanding contribution for the third year running, it highlights the significant impact he has had on hockey in Great Britain and the world. As he gears up for the Paris Olympics, his legacy as one of the sport’s deadliest finishers continues to grow.”
Meanwhile, the Hockey Writers’ Club, renowned for its discerning judgement, has acknowledged Roper’s significant impact on the game, having been part of East Grinstead’s title-winning season in the Women’s Premier Division, as well as her assistant coach duties with the club. This summer she will be aiming to compete in a fourth Olympics with Team GB.
“It is an absolute honour to receive this prestigious award. When you look back at past winners and now to be able to join them it is something I’m incredibly proud of,” said Roper.
“I wouldn’t have won this award without my incredible team mates at both GB/England and East Grinstead. They are the reason I continue to enjoy playing the game.
“To win East Grinstead’s first premier league title last season and having just qualified for the Paris Olympics with GB are the two most standout memories over the last 12 months. They both also go down as some of my proudest hockey achievements to date. It is a hugely exciting period of hockey coming up both domestically and internationally and hopefully I can be part of creating some more special memories with my teammates.”
HWC said in a statement: “This award celebrates not only her individual successes but also her pivotal role in inspiring teammates and captivating fans across the globe.
“Laura’s journey in hockey, characterised by strategic acumen, agility, and technical expertise, has earned her widespread respect and admiration. Her consistent high-level performances, especially under immense pressure, distinguish her as a true icon of the sport.”
Bandurak won the men’s vote ahead of Zach Wallace and Ollie Payne. Roper headed the women’s voting, with Hannah French and Tess Howard finishing second and third respectively.
England Hockey CEO Nick Pink presented the awards to club representatives due to GB commitments for both players. Pink highlighted that the recent BBC audience figures from the recent Olympic qualifiers, which both winners participated in, had been a major boost for the sport.
Full list of past winners over the 40 years can be found here.