The Under 16 Boys had their final training session on Saturday 16 April. A nice occasion for some game play, to look back on the season and accomplishments, to congratulate the players and of course to say a big thanks to all involved in making the season happen...
The squad of Under 15 and 16 Boys was made up of more than 50 boys. There is no perfect time during the week to get that many busy teenagers training on a day and time that works for everyone. We persisted again this season with Saturday evening (remembering that three years ago there was no regular training time for BU16s!) and had an average of 25 boys coming to training over 29 weekly sessions.
We entered four teams into the Mercian Home Counties Colts League, probably the strongest boys league in the country. There are 172 Boys teams in the Mercian League ranging from U14 to U18. The Under 16 age group had 60 teams spread across 10 competitions:
- Premier = 6 teams
- Regional (Northeast, South, Southeast, West) = 23 teams
- Regional + (North, South) = 12 teams
- Challenge (Central, North, South) = 19 teams
We played in all four competitions: Premier (5 matches), South (5 matches), South+ (8 matches) and Central (10 matches). In addition to league matches the boys played a number of friendly matches totalling nearly 70 matches for the season across the squad.
In league competition, we lost only one match out of 28:
The South+ team had a play-off match in Round 1 of the League Play-offs (lost to Milton Keynes). The South team got to Round 3 of the League Play-offs with wins against Blackheath (4-4, won on flicks) and West Herts (12-2) but succumbed to a strong Bromley & Beckenham (1-2), narrowly missing out on a further chance to qualify for League Finals Day. The Prem team qualified for League Finals Day by coming top two (League winners) in the Premier League (to be played 1st May).
EH Cup - Boys Under 16 National Championships
In the England Hockey Cup, more than 20 boys participated in Cup matches. The boys were undefeated in Tiers 1 and 2 and undefeated in the National Finals until the second half of the Bronze medal match:
Tier 1 - Local
Tier 2 - Regional
Tier 3 National
A team of Under 16 Boys also competed in the Annual Inmaculada tournament in Barcelona in December, coming runners-up to a very impressive home A side.
Special Mentions and Awards
Many thanks and well done to all boys who trained and played matches with us this season. For those moving on to Under 17s, the Under 18 squad is anxiously awaiting your arrival to plan our best Under 18 season yet. There are plenty of options and opportunities around Men's training and teams as well.
But first, to acknowledge a few who have shone in different ways:
Runners-up: James Walker (new to GHC this season) and Adam von Hesse-Nassau (joined very end of last season). Both boys have leap-frogged where they were at the start of the season; they have applied themselves really well to the training and played in as many matches as they could. The results are there to see and we hope they continue to stick with it and continue to progress.
Winner: William Kefford. Will has really grown in the position of Centre Back (having hesitated to want to play there) and grown as a player. He has also played centre mid and in both positions has shown decisiveness, strength and confidence. A pleasure to watch - keep it up, Will!
Runners-up: Elliot Sanderson and Alex Smith. Both boys took advantage of as many training sessions and matches as they could, also playing for the Men's 3s and with Alex also playing for all BU16 teams at some point as well as any other team looking for a keeper (oppo, ladies, vets)! Not only do they train and play as much as they can, they each give as much as they can in everything they do.
Winner: Fraser Boulton. Fraser has been described as committed, hard-working, fearless and never giving up. He is a natural captain who leads by example and communicates well. We look forward to Fraser continuing to be a key part of our U18s and Men's teams.
Runner-up: Jake Willshire. Jake is committed, trains hard, works hard and is keen to play as much as he can. Having been out with injury for a few weeks mid season, Jake did well to recover and keep himself progressing. He uses his strength and size well and we are looking forward to his continuing progress and match play next season when he will be one of our senior keepers in the squad.
Winner: Ed Ferguson. Ed has a natural ability and sense of the game that we are looking forward to helping him progress and further develop next season. Ed was new to the squad in September and started the season with an injury. Once that was sorted, he showed more and more of what he could do each in match and training. Roll on next season!
Runners-up: Freddy Esplen for his ever so silky skills, his impressive agility and fitness and his never-say-die attitude in games. Well done Freddy and we look forward to more and more next season. Dom Hardesty who has proven to be a very solid and reliable player this season - a safe pair of hands any coach can count on.
Winner: Oliver Grieveson. Oliver has developed a superb positional sense, is a great tackler and is steady and reliable. The kind of player a coach can really count on to do the job. Well done Ollie!
The Prem team at time of writing still have the League Finals Day to play and they will get a few mentions as well.
And last but not least, hockey at GHC would not happen without the hours and hours of time put in by those who give their time to share their skills. A massive thanks to any and everyone who helped moved a goal post, collected balls from outside the cages or bought an umpire a drink (after a match of course)...
Rob Clift - thank you for coaching the Regional teams (South matches and some South+ as well). The boys no doubt benefitted from your deep and broad experience of the game!
Charlie Atkins - thank you for helping on pitch during training sessions and for stepping in to look after the Prem team on a couple of occasions. Much appreciated.
Matthew Fuller - thank you for assisting on pitch during training and also coaching the occasional match.
Toby Mullins - weekly training and matches most Sundays would probably have been enough but also supported our Men's 1s coaches and players when our coaching situation changed mid-season. Superb results and progress for the Prem and Cup matches.
Gary Lonie - Gary has coached some of the boys since they were 9 years old. He felt it was time to have someone else take the boys to the next level. Gary took a massive step away to let Toby take them forward, still Gary was a huge help behind the scenes helping organise extra matches, finding umpires and coaching Challenge matches and friendlies.
Jeremy Holt - thank you!! Thank you, Jeremy, also for being the Mercian League U16 Boys League Manager and on the Board of the League. You do this superbly and without it the boys wouldn't have such great league opportunities.
Steve Greene - former National League (and England U21) player, former coach of GHC BU16 Boys and more, Steve decided to do an umpiring course to help since he saw it is one area the club struggle with. Outstanding that he did this and hats off to him coming out for us on so many occasions to umpire. Top job!!
Thank you for getting your boys to and from training and matches (and in many cases getting other people's boys there, too). Thank you for being supportive and for sharing your feedback.
A special thanks was made to Paul Thompson who managed the Men's 3s team this season which was mostly made up of Under 16 Boys. The team placed 5th out of 11 teams in the Surrey Open Hockey League Div 2 - a really great start to men's hockey for many of the boys. Well done, Paul - we really appreciate it.
A special thanks to Kathryn Greenhalgh, Cathy Sanderson, and Jac Smith who organised the thank you gifts for the coaches and umpires (and for me - you got it just right! again! Thank you!).