Saturday, May 25, 2024

England and Netherlands ‘setting legacy’ in flourishing over 80s hockey scene

England over 80s captain Ken Wilcock hailed the “extraordinary” organisation of his age group Masters category which saw four English and Dutch teams take to the pitch last week.

In two official Test matches at Polo Farm, the Dutch beat England for the first time since the annual fixtures were first played in 2019. 

The Netherlands beat England A 2-0 and then the B teams saw the Oranje veterans win 3-1. 

The standout goal was delivered by Rob Struik, a speedy 80-year-old playing his first outing in the age category, who scored a fine solo effort from inside the England A half.

On a heartwarming day at Canterbury, friendship and camaraderie were in abundance as they then celebrated the annual renewal at a local restaurant before the two teams reversed the fixtures the following day.

“You do need people who organise things. It’s extraordinary and without people like Adrian [Stephenson] the over 80s might not operate as it does,” Wilcock said of his team-mate and chief organiser.

“I think we are setting a legacy,” he added of a growing scene.

The games at Canterbury were the first in England Masters colours for Peter Wilson, a former Oxford blue and first class cricketer for the university, who played hockey at Richmond and, having been born in Bulawayo, has represented South Africa. 

He and Ted Frost from North Staffs were the only two in the A squad who hadn’t played for England at one or more age groups. 

The B teams saw Bill Greenwood, Brian Woolcott and Gilbert Grace take to the field for England as a trio of 87-year-olds and still relishing the competition hockey offers.

Stephenson said: “We don’t need an outdoor coach coming in and telling us we are doing it all wrong. We know each other well. We have skills and failures and know how to make up for them.”

The teams will now look forward to a re-match at the International Grand Masters Hockey Festival in The Hague at the end of June, 

There will be four Over 80 teams playing at the festival at Klein Switzerland in The Hague in June – LX (England), De Zestigplussers (Netherlands), Southern Cross (Australia) and Alliance International, the first time an Over 80 section has been viable at an international tournament. 

Southern Cross will also be playing two days of matches for each of their five age group teams – O60 to O80 – at Oxford Hawks at the end of June prior to the Dutch tournament.

Total Hockey

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