Where to begin? I’m not going to lie – the World Cup was a really difficult time for everybody connected with the England Ladies’ team.
We were expecting to do well, so to finish in 11th position was nothing short of disastrous. Losing the first three matches really did feel like we’d hit rock bottom and it was definitely something that most of us had never experienced. Ironically when we played the higher seeded teams in our group (Argentina & Germany) in our last two group games we actually performed much better; cruelly losing to Argentina in the last minute of play and beating Germany 3-1.
Going through a tournament like that followed by a period of intense scrutiny is never easy. What went wrong? Was it one thing in particular or was it for a variety of reasons? It’s very difficult to be precise but I do know that we will all learn massively from this experience and indeed we have to.
A quick turnaround from the World Cup to the Commonwealth Games meant that we had to re-group and re-focus on our next task as quickly as possible. With our Head Coach, Jason Lee, moving on after the World Cup, we were put through our paces in the weeks that followed, under the guidance of Danny Kerry (GB & England Performance Director and our former coach). Despite the after effects of the World Cup there was a good vibe amongst the team and a satisfaction that we’d been training well and were feeling fit and sharp.
This could be seen at the Investec London Cup where we won the gold medal with some good team performances. The whole tournament really was perfect preparation for the Commonwealths. For the first time we played at the new Olympic Legacy venue at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre and the pitch looked fantastic in blue with the Union Jack around it. It’s going to be brilliant to have a permanent hockey centre to host major tournaments (like the Euro Hockey Championships in 2015) and hopefully it will encourage more and more supporters to come along and watch.
We were then off up to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. Experiencing a tournament like the Commonwealths is very unique and different from other hockey competitions. I think it’s great preparation for the Olympics with the Athletes’ Village, the opening and closing ceremonies, communal dining etc… It’s definitely very exciting to be a part of and, especially with it being up in Glasgow, lots of English supporters had made the journey up there and it was fantastic to see.
Unfortunately for me the tournament didn’t start well – I managed to get injured in the first 54 seconds of the first game, and was then unable to play the rest of that game or the next. Thankfully the girls put in some good performances and won those first two games. We then had our biggest game against Australia, who were scoring goals for fun, and, although we lost 3-0, we played really well and took a lot of heart from the game. This meant it was all down to our last match against Scotland – if we won or drew we were through to the semi-finals, if they won they were through. As you can imagine the crowd, which included a pipe band, was incredible and, as always, it was a close and nervy game but thankfully we came through as 2-1 winners.
So we were to play New Zealand, a side we haven’t played very often, in the semi-final. The last time I played them in a tournament was our bronze medal game at the Olympics! We knew it was going to be a tough game as they are a fast team with some key individuals. As always we didn’t make it easy for ourselves – having led for most of the match we conceded an equaliser with 2 minutes remaining to take it to penalty shuffles (you might see a pattern emerging here)! When Maddie Hinch saved their last shuffle for us to win we went mental! Having been through what we had been through earlier in the summer, to make it into the Commonwealth Final, we were over the moon.
Now I guess it’s very easy to relax, knowing you’ve secured a medal however we had no intention of accepting a silver medal – we wanted gold. I am incredibly proud of the team’s performance in the final, we tackled like our lives depended on it and fought all the way. Being 1-0 up with a minute to go I couldn’t believe it when they were awarded a penalty corner and, for us then to concede an equalizer with 11 seconds on the clock was heart -breaking. I am sure you know that we lost on shuffles and it honestly still pains me that we were so close to winning that gold medal. I know we can be proud of winning a silver medal and how far we had progressed over the course of the summer but I so wanted to win that gold medal.
We’re now on a well needed break from hockey and most of the team have headed off on holidays. We’re back in full-time training from the beginning of September, by when I think there may be a new coach in place and there will be a real buzz around as we all look to move the team forward. The Champions Trophy is in Argentina this November and next year we will have the Olympic Qualifiers so it’s really important we hit the ground running and start as we mean to go on.