Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Junior quartet join illustrious ranks after Hockey Writers’ Club awards

Three teens who have made their entrance at men’s and women’s Premier Division level, including one who racked up millions of views on social media for her baseline skills, were awarded honours at the Hockey Writers’ Club annual awards on Wednesday.

The judging panel sought information from coaches, clubs and schools, with the judges considering not just hockey ability but players’ personal qualities and potential for future development.

2023 Winners

Youth, Girls U18 – Lottie Bingham (Weald Grammar School, Holcombe HC)

Youth, Boys U18 – Jonny Sturch-Hibbitt (Exeter University, Whitgift School, Wimbledon HC)

Junior, Girls U16 – Evie Grindal (Clifton College, Clifton Robinsons HC)

Junior, Boys U16 – Olly Bennett (Whitgift School, Oxted HC)

Lottie Bingham

Lottie began her hockey career at St Michael’s prep school and Sevenoaks HC where she was part of the team who won the U12 national title. She was captain of the Weald Grammar School team who were crowned U13 national school champions in 2019.

She then moved to HC Knole Park and her performances over four seasons helped the club win U16 indoor and outdoor national titles and become U18 indoor national champions last season.

Lottie Bingham PIC: Supplied

Lottie played for the U16’s for two seasons and was part of the U18 squad which came fourth in the U18 European Championships in Dusseldorf last summer. At 17, she was also the youngest member of England’s U21 squad at the Junior World Cup in Chile.

She transferred to Holcombe for senior hockey this season and was part of the indoor Holcombe team who got promoted to the Premier Division.

England Hockey coaches said: “Lottie contributes more to hockey than just her performances on field, a state school player, she inspires the future with her mentoring of younger athletes within her club environment. Lottie is a great role model showing what perseverance and hard work can achieve.”

Jonny Sturch-Hibbitt

A talented tennis junior, Jonathan decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and a Ben Marsden Wimbledon Hockey camp saw him pick up his first hockey stick aged 11.  

In his first season he found himself playing in the South of England U12 finals followed by a trip over to Eindhoven with the U14’s for the EHL Cup, scoring Wimbledon’s only goal of the tournament. At Whitgift, his team won many national titles culminating in the indoor and outdoor double in his final year.   

Jonny Sturch-Hibbitt PIC: Supplied

He was cut from the original U16 England side before determination saw him make the full squad the following year. He has continued to represent England ever since with a further two years in U18s and in 2023 he started attending camps with the U21s. Recent selection saw him travel to Malaysia for the Sultan Johor Cup.  

“Jonny has steadily excelled over the season on the pitch, developing his leadership towards the back end of the programme,” his England Hockey coaches said. 

“He became the “go to” player in offence and terrorised European defences. He has stepped up to U21 level and is continuing to impress.”

Evie Grindal

It was at the U11 IAPS National Finals where Evie’s hockey journey really began when Clifton College were crowned national champions and she was awarded player of the tournament and finished top goal scorer. 

Aged 13, she moved to Repton School and was part of the 2022 squad which that season won the U16 National Championships. An England U16 camp followed and she was awarded her first international cap against Germany that summer. 

Evie Grindhal PIC: Supplied

In 2022/23, while still three years young for her age group, she scored a hat-trick against Framlingham College in the U18 National Finals, alongside helping Repton women gain promotion into the National Conference League.

Evie has since returned to Clifton College for her GCSEs and is helping them progress through the U18 National Championships. Aged 15, she is playing and scoring goals for Premier Division side Clifton Robinsons HC.

Alongside her on-field hockey success, Evie performed a baseline challenge with her sponsor Y1 Hockey last year. The challenge and her shot went viral and managed to attract 12.5 million views through social media platforms.

Martin Jones, a former coach and still mentor, said: “Repton School has produced numerous senior international players, including Olympic medallists at London, Rio and Tokyo and I believe that Evie has an unrivalled technical ability of any of those that have attended Repton before her.”

Olly Bennett

From a state primary school, Olly was awarded a Whitgift School scholarship  where Karl Stagno and his coaching team developed his hockey. He plays his junior hockey at Surbiton where Frankie Bryant has been supportive of his junior commitments and senior hockey at Oxted HC. He has also played junior cricket for Surrey and was an academy footballer with Brighton & Hove Albion. 

His first chance at top level hockey came when Oxted’s player coach Nick Giles asked him to play, aged 14, in the Tier 1 National Cup Final vs Old Georgians in 2022.  Oxted lost 3-0 but Olly brushed shoulders with current GB internationals and his silver medal hangs proudly at home.

Olly Bennett PIC: Supplied

This led to a NAGs trial and selection to the England U16 squad in 2022. He captained his country against Ulster and again against the Netherlands in 2023. At the age of 15 he was handed an England U18 call up and travelled to Dusseldorf for the U18 European Championships. 

“His  mature and composed approach makes it hard to believe he is still so young,” England Hockey cited in their award nomination. “Highlights for last season include a Premier Division debut and a 4 nations win at Easter where the Dutch coach described him as ‘one of the best he has seen’.”

Past winners of awards include Rio Olympic Games gold medallists Maddie Hinch and Sophie Bray. 

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