Photo c/o David Kissman
Beeston striker and Rio Olympian Sam Ward & former Beeston star, and Olympic gold medalist Hollie Pearne-Webb have won the prestigious UK player of the year awards for 2017, chosen by members of the Hockey Writers’ Club.
The awards were made at the Club’s annual presentation lunch on Wednesday January 24, 2018 at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, Knightsbridge, London.
We all stuck together, says Ward
Mercian men’s player of the year award winner Ward, 27, won a European championship bronze medal in August, with England defeating Germany 4-2 in the bronze-medal game in Amsterdam. England also qualified for the World Cup with a third-place finish in the World League Semi-Final in London in June. Early in 2017, Great Britain won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, defeating Australia 4-3 in the final in May.
Ward, made his international debut in 2014. In 2017 he rejoined his boyhood club of Beeston after two seasons with Kent club Holcombe. He began hockey as one of the “Banana Bunch”, a mixed programme then run by Leicester Ladies, before moving to Beeston, aged nine.
Ward said of his award: “It is an honour, but a bit of a shock and I really appreciate it. Looking at the past winners, I am honoured to be on that list. They are some of the best hockey players in the world and to be following the likes of them is an incredibly proud moment for me.
“Internationally it was a good year,” Ward said. “It started with Great Britain winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy. But for me the biggest reward was the bronze medal in the Europeans in Amsterdam. We all stuck together in what I can only describe as one of the toughest games of my career – and we took the bronze medal. That is all down to the hard work the staff and all the players have put in.”
Ward netted eight goals in the World League Semi-Final at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in June to help England qualify for the World Cup. “It is always great to score a load of goals. It was a fantastic summer for me and that is probably one of my best tournaments goals-wise. But at the end of the day it is about us focusing on what we want to do as a team and if the goals contribute to that, it is brilliant,” he said.
Ward is now relishing his return to club hockey at Beeston, who went into the winter break second in the premier division of the England Men’s Hockey League. “I can never thank Holcombe enough for what they have done for me, but it is special to go back to your childhood club and pull on the jersey that you pulled on from the age of nine.
“This year we want to push on and first of all make sure we make the play offs, but then I think we all aspire to win the league and to try and make Europe again,” he said.
Ahead internationally for Ward is the defence of the Sultan Azlan Shah cup in March; the home nations compete in the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April; and the World Cup is in India, starting in late November.
“The Commonwealth Games is going to be an incredible event,” Ward said. “Then I have never played in a World Cup myself, so I cannot wait until the end of the year and hopefully playing there.”
Former Beeston defender, Pearne-Webb, 27, is Investec women’s player of the year. She was a major contributor to England’s efforts on the international stage in what was a rebuilding year following Great Britain’s success at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In August 2017, she was named player of the tournament at the European hockey championships in Amsterdam, the Netherlands – an award that is traditionally dominated by host-country winners and forward or midfield players. England took bronze in that tournament, defeating Germany 2-0 in the bronze-medal game.
On hearing she had won the Investec women’s award, Pearne-Webb said: “It is a surprise. I said the same thing at the Europeans – I don’t really think about awards. But I am so honoured to receive this Hockey Writers’ Club player of the year award because the previous recipients are such great players. I am very happy, very surprised and very honoured.”
The defender made her international debut in 2013. She began hockey with Belper Hockey Club and has also played at Beeston and Surbiton. Pearne-Webb, then Webb, famously netted Great Britain’s winning shootout goal in the 2016 Olympic Games gold match against the Netherlands.
“It is a new squad since 2016 and we have made a really good start into this Olympic cycle,” she said. “There are a lot of fresh faces and it has been a really exciting time getting to know those players. I am really looking forward to next two or three years, and this year in particular with what we have ahead. There is so much potential there.”
Major tournaments of 2018 include the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, then the women’s Hockey World Cup in London in July.
“What we have ahead is so exciting for everyone in the squad. All the home nations are going to the Commonwealth Games and then we have a home World Cup for the England players – we are incredibly excited about that.”
A close vote
The voting was close in both the men’s and women’s player of the year awards, which are decided by a poll of UK members of the Hockey Writers’ Club. In the men’s vote Ward finished ahead of Surbiton, Scotland and Great Britain striker Alan Forsyth. Third place was a tie between England and Great Britain goalkeeper George Pinner (Holcombe) and England and Great Britain’s Barry Middleton (also Holcombe).
In the women’s vote, Pearne-Webb pipped England and Great Britain forward Lily Owsley (University of Birmingham) for first place. Another Great Britain and England forward, Sophie Bray (Kampong, Netherlands) was placed third.
During 2017 the Hockey Writers’ Club also presented Pearne-Webb with the Marjorie Pollard Salver as the best player at a major tournament nominated by the club (the European championships). The corresponding men’s award, the Chris Moore Salver, was won by Barry Middleton (World League Semi Final, London).
HOCKEY WRITERS’ CLUB – UK PLAYERS OF THE YEAR – PREVIOUS WINNERS
1983 Margaret Gleghorne; Paul Barber
1984 Karen Brown; Richard Leman
1985 Linda Carr; Sean Kerly MBE
1986 Moira McLeod; Ian Taylor
1987 Violet McBride; Imran Sherwani
1988 Barbara Hambly OBE; Jon Potter
1989 Vickey Dixon; David Faulkner
1990 Maggie Souyave; Andy Halliday
1991 Joanne Thompson; Jason Laslett
1992 Jane Sixsmith MBE; Rob Hill
1993 Sandie Lister; Julian Halls
1994 Karen Brown; Simon Mason
1995 Tammy Miller; Ian Jennings MBE
1996 Kathryn Johnson; Bobby Crutch;ley
1997 Karen Brown; Jon Wyatt
1998 Carolyn Reid; David Hacker
1999 Christina Cullen MBE; Chris Ashcroft
2000 Jane Sixsmith MBE; Mark Pearn
2001 Jane Smith; Danny Hall
2002 Leisa King; Robert Todd
2003 Kate Walsh; Simon Mason
2004 Christina Cullen MBE; Barry Middleton
2005 Crista Cullen; Jonathan Ebsworth
2006 Crista Cullen; James Tindall
2007 Kate Walsh; Barry Middleton
2008 Beth Storry; Ali McGregor
2009 Helen Richardson; Ashley Jackson
2010 Helen Richardson; Barry Middleton
2011 Alex Danson; Mark Pearn
2012 Kate Walsh; Barry Middleton
2013 Maddie Hinch; Adam Dixon
2014 Susannah Townsend; Iain Lewers
2015 Maddie Hinch; Iain Lewers
2016 Maddie Hinch; Dan Fox
2017 Hollie Pearne-Webb; Sam Ward