Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Olympics Hockey: We feel pain of omitted players, says GB coach Revington

Men’s coach Paul Revington emphasised that ‘balance’ was uppermost in his mind when he was selecting the Team GB squad for the Paris Olympics, writes TOM HARLE.

The 16-strong men’s squad for Paris 2024 features seven debutants, seven Tokyo returnees and two three-time Olympians in skipper David Ames and striker Sam Ward. 

“This is the best group, the best hockey players,” said Revington. “It’s a nice mix of versatility and players who are best in their position.

“It’s a good mix of players who’ve been to the Olympics and guys who are new, which is good for us because there’s no baggage – something new, something to create, rather than something to live off.”

Ward is the only recognised striker in Revington’s squad, with natural finishers Nick Bandurak and Alan Forsyth left out.

Revington explained: “Again, in a reduced team, to just take a whole heap of goalscorers would impact the balance of the team. You can’t just select three or four goalscorers without people who can get the ball into the circle.

“We’ve played traditionally off 18 and going down to 15 now means that there needs to be focus on one and Sam is a proven goalscorer over a long period of time.”

Bandurak’s tally of 43 goals in 58 international appearances wasn’t enough to get him a seat on the Eurostar.

“I won’t go into detail, all I can say about Nick is that he’s played a big part and we really appreciate the contribution he’s made,” said Revington.

“I know it’s disappointing for him, but he’s playing in a very competitive squad. We feel his pain but at the same time, the 15 that are selected are the ones that have got to do the business.”

Nick Bandurak has been on song in internatinal game PIC: GB Hockey

Ollie Payne continues as Team GB’s number one. 

A rapid rise saw him selected between the sticks in Tokyo and he faced an even tougher battle for the single goalkeeping slot this time around.

Payne, 25, has been favoured over James Mazarelo whose shootout heroics saw England into the final of the 2023 EuroHockey Championships.

“It was a difficult decision,” said Revington. “We are very, very lucky to have three outstanding keepers on our programme.

“James is unfortunate not to be selected as number one and he could easily be the number one keeper in any other team. We’re very happy with Ollie, obviously, and excited for him in terms of Paris.”

Conor Williamson is the youngest member of the squad at 20 years of age and a bolter pick who built on an impressive string of displays at last year’s EuroHockey.

“I think people were a little bit surprised that Connor was included at the Euros and his performances were magnificent,” said Revington. “Everything he’s done since he’s entered the programme has been along those lines.

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“Within the squad, I don’t think anyone was surprised he has made this Olympic team. He is a high calibre player and someone who will play for England and GB for many years.”

Gareth Furlong joined the GB programme in March and now finds himself with an Olympic place, with his drag-flicking prowess clearly a key selling point for the seasoned Wales international.

“We tried several times throughout last year to get Gareth into the programme, he had multiple assessments,” said Revington. “At all of those assessments, he had niggles and injuries but then forced his way in through a period of consistency.

“Since December, January, he has really performed well and he has come into the Pro League and delivered. He’s been consistent in terms of his delivery in game play and obviously from a corner point of view, he’s stood up and produced when it mattered and that is important for us.”

The strength of the squad that Revington has chosen is fuelling hope that Team GB can return from the French capital with a first medal in men’s hockey since Seoul 1988.

“I want the group to reach their potential,” said Revington. “That’s going to be attained by them believing in themselves, spreading their wings and doing everything that they’ve done consistently for the last two and a half years with absolute freedom, knowing they have the support of the entire nation behind them. If they do that, they will enjoy the Olympic Games.”

Aldi are proud Official Partners of Team GB & ParalympicsGB, supporting all athletes through to Paris 2024

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