Middleton and Walsh win hockey writers’ accolades

From the Hockey Writers’ Club

Barry Middleton, the 29-year-old Great Britain and England captain, and Kate Walsh, the 32-year-old Great Britain, England and Reading defender, were named UK Players of the Year for 2012 following the annual poll conducted among British members of the Hockey Writers’ Club.

Brave Kate Walsh after being struck in the face during the Olympics, breaking her jaw. She was back playing within days
Brave Kate Walsh after being struck in the face during an Olympic match, and breaking her jaw. She was back playing within days

After breaking her jaw in a horrendous injury in the closing minutes of GB’s Olympic game against Japan, Walsh returned to captain her team in their important match against China six days later, and ultimately led her team to Olympic bronze.

Shortly after the Olympics, she was back as assistant coach playing for her club side, Reading.

Walsh began her international career in May 1999 against Russia and has now amassed 292 combined Great Britain and England international caps (184 England, 108 Great Britain) including the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and London 2012.

She has won the HWC’s Player of the Year twice previously, in 2003 and 2007.

“Kate has been an incredible ambassador for our sport and been fantastic all year so is thoroughly deserving of her accolade,” said Alex Danson, last year’s winner.

Barry Middleton is another extraordinary ambassador for hockey: it is the fourth time that he has won the Player of the Year award (2006, 2007 and 2010 previously).

Barry Middleton: has no plans to retire just yet
Barry Middleton: has no plans to retire just yet

Starting his hockey in Doncaster, he then moved to Premier League Cannock, where his hard graft, inspirational leadership and high class was established leading to a move to the Netherlands and then on to Germany playing for An der Alster, one of their leading clubs. Olympic year saw him back in the UK playing for East Grinstead before going back to Dutch Club HGC who did so much to cement his international reputation.

Middleton started his England career in 2003 against Belgium, and has so far played 270 internationals (England 165 and Great Britain 105), scoring 79 goals. He has no intention at present of retiring from the international scene before Rio where he hopes to add to his Athens, Beijing and London Olympic appearances.

Speaking to England Hockey TV ahead of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, Middleton said: “I’m looking to go to Rio. I want to play for four more years. Hockey’s my life; it’s what I’ve always done. I feel fit enough to carry on. As soon as I stop enjoying hockey or I feel I’m not helping the team then that’s when I’ll stop.”

Barry was present to receive the traditional Rose Bowl and cheque at yesterday’s presentation lunch at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge, London, from World Hockey president Leandro Negre, who flew in from Barcelona for the occasion. Walsh was away on player business with the BOA, and her award was received by Jennie Byass on her behalf.

Ashley Jackson(East Grinstead) and Alex Danson (Reading) were runners-up with Glenn Kirkham (East Grinstead) and Crista Cullen (Leicester) third in the members’ ballot.

Plaques and cheques were also presented to Emily Defroand (Birmingham University) and Luke Taylor (East Grinstead) as winners of the Higgins Group UK Youth Hockey Awards. Charlotte Daly (Reading) and Conor Caplan (Old Loughtonians) won the Higgins Junior awards.

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