Justin the captain of the 5A’s and is also in charge of organising the clubs umpires. He tells about being talent spotted by Mike Fitter, his rugby playing days and life as an inspection specialist in a time of COVID.

When did you and what led you to join Southgate HC?

My eldest daughter (now 14!) started playing when she was 6 (2012/13 season). I watched for a couple of years and having turned 40 at around the same time, decided getting fitter would be a good thing to do! I started playing via Back2Hockey in 2015; I thoroughly enjoyed the B2H course and would’ve left it there but a talent scout, in the form of Mike Fitter, invited a few of us (me, Will Hargrove, Simon Holmes, Randall Hyer, Chris Rouse) to sign up for the Tankards team. Playing a team sport for the first time since my mid 20s was great, although it was only supposed to be 1-2 games per month, which didn’t last long!!

Before you joined where did you play?

I’d never played hockey before 2015, although my sister played on grass at school and loved the game. My main sport as a lad was rugby, although I played a fair bit of football too. Whilst I continued to play 5 a side football up until fairly recently, I hung up my rugby boots in 98, when I finished at college (they were given a dust off for a tour to the Munich 7s in 2002; I think I lasted a game, before I had to retire to the bar!)

What have been the highlights of your time at the club?

Right from the start, the club has been a great environment to be within and I was made to feel really welcome. Being part of bringing our younger players into the men’s section and then watching their development has been hugely satisfying; we’re all indebted to Mike Fitter’s vision behind this. And we’ve had some great wins and promotions along the way but, most of all, it’s just about going out and enjoying 70mins of hockey each week, together with catching up, over a drink, after the game.

How long have you been captain of the 5A’s team?

The 5As this season but the team that grew into the 5As, Tankards Z from memory, I captained for the last couple of seasons. 5As is a great squad and encompasses the ethos of the old Tankards concept: a mixture of older players, some of whom have played for the game for many years and others, such as myself, who are still relatively new to it all, together with younger lads, who are coming into the men’s section and gaining experience before moving onto higher teams. It’s always really pleasing to see our junior players make that next step up to a higher team.

How has the team been getting on this season?

This season has been a bit of a curate’s egg so far. We’ve brought in a number of new players, both in the junior and senior sections and it always takes a while for the team to bed in and get to know each other’s games. That said, we’ve played some very good hockey at times and got a couple of wins, played well and the game just hasn’t gone for us, leading to a couple of draws and come up against some very strong teams (we were promoted last season to Div 7SW) and just lacked a bit of composure. Currently W2, D2 & L3.

What have been the challenges that have come with the job?

Admin is probably the main challenge through the week. I work closely with Neil Prior, Chair of Selectors for the East Leagues teams, to ensure we get the best team out for our division and then managing any last minute changes, if players are no longer available (COVID has thrown another dimension into this, with late withdrawals due to the need to self-isolate/quarantine). Once on the pitch, it is an absolute pleasure to be the team’s captain – 5As are a great bunch of lads and I never have to worry that someone will be late to the game or come with anything other than 100% commitment.

When not captaining or coaching what do you in your non hockey life?

Hockey and sport is a big part of my life, as both my daughters play hockey and my son, who used to play at SHC, has switched to rugby. The logistics involved in getting them all to games and training is huge!

When I’m not at the hockey pitch, though, it’s the day job (I’m an infection specialist, working in S.Essex and COVID has made the last year very busy indeed), spending time together as a family and being forever grateful for my wife’s forbearance!

What are your hockey ambitions for your team, for you and for the club?

For me & the team – to continue to develop as a team, play some great hockey and keep our place in Div 7. For the club – to see our senior men’s and ladies’ teams earn promotion, to attract new players at all levels and to encourage more people to take up hockey; if you fancy giving hockey a go, B2H usually runs from April to the end of August!