#SJA2022: The case for Team England women’s hockey gold medallists

Ahead of the members vote for the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, we asked members of the SJA Academy to make their case for contenders to win sportsman, sportswoman and team of the year. MAX CARTER KEALL with the case for England’s Commonwealth Games winning women’s hockey team.

After 24 years, three bronze medals, three silver medals and over 3,000 minutes of gameplay, England Women’s hockey team finally won gold at the Commonwealth Games. 

Captained by Rio Olympic gold medallist Hollie Pearne-Webb, England outclassed their old enemy, world number three side Australia, to record a momentous 2-1 win on a sunny afternoon at the University of Birmingham. 

This tournament was a remarkable display from the home side as England cruised through the group stages and saw off a resilient New Zealand side on penalties in the semi-final. 

However, arriving at the gold medal match England had lost to Australia in three previous finals, but goals from Hollie Hunt and Tess Howard secured a dominant victory for David Ralph’s side. 

England’s two goals within four minutes were double the goals conceded by Australia in the entire tournament, with India’s Vandana Katariya the only other player to net against the Hockeyroos. 

At the final whistle the team’s emotional display, throwing their sticks in the air and dancing to Spandau Ballet’s Gold in front of a 6,000 sell-out crowd, was one that tugged at everyone’s heartstrings. 

Just like the crowd was singing, hockey had come home. 

Pearne-Webb, one of six players still playing from that Olympic winning side, said post game: “This has never been achieved by an England hockey side before, so it’s just so special.

“I hope this can give hockey and women’s sport a boost. We saw what the Lionesses did and they were hugely inspirational for us.”

This bond between sports was shown when the Lionesses sent good luck messages to the team before their final, and midfielder Flora Peel said: “They told us how some of our previous teams had inspired them in the past, and that they hoped that now they’d returned the favour by helping inspire us to do this.

“And they definitely did.”

Like football, hockey is wildly popular globally, being the third most played sport in the world, with the International Hockey Federation estimating that nearly 30 million people participate worldwide. 

However, particularly in England, it is underfunded and under supported, particularly when contrasting it with the recent successes of women’s football and rugby. 

With the effort, passion and success this team showed, hockey deserves to be placed among the upper echelons of sport but needs far more exposure to get there.

Still, so much can be expected from this exciting young side, particularly as the hockey world turns its eye to the Paris Olympics in 2024, but to recognise their unprecedented success on such a large stage would be huge for the team and even bigger for the sport as a whole.

Full members can vote here for their full choice.