Can Surbiton turn domestic rule to dominance in Europe?

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

SURBITON  women are the best team by some distance in the Investec Premier League, having won the last four league championships, three of the last four cup finals, clinched the league and cup double this season,  as well as having lost only one league game since Feb 2014.

But their performances at the EuroHockey Club Championships in the last two years since their debut have fallen far short of their domestic domination.

In 2015 they lost on penalty shuffles to Club de Campo Madrid before finishing fifth (of eight). Last year they were without their first keeper Abi Walker and their Rio Olympians for much of their preparations and suffered a 6-0 drubbing by UHC Hamburg before a 3-2 defeat against Canterbury saw them finish sixth.

This year five members of the Great Britain central training squad will be in Madrid for a week-long camp, returning only days before the team departs for Holland. Again their first goalkeeper – this time Sabbie Heesh – is sidelined with an ACL injury but Emily Defroand (ankle) and Sarah Page (nose) are expected to recover in time. However, drag-flicker Robyn Collins has not been released from Scotland’s preparations for the European Championship in August.

Surbiton have the same problem English sides always face in Europe with their domestic season ending almost two months before the European tournament. By contrast, the Dutch, German and Spanish clubs have the advantage that their league seasons run until just before they leave for European competitions.

Despite recent history head coach Brett Garrard is confident his side will reach ‘s-Hertogenbosch next month in better shape this season.

“We will prepare as best we can. We will continue to train twice a week and play against male mixed sides of club junior and senior players chosen for the way they will test the European squad,” he said.

This weekend they will have their toughest test – a game against a GB Development side – with their central training squad members playing before they leave for Spain.

With only two group games to win a place in the semi-finals Garrard is aware of the need to win the opening game. This year Complutense from Spain present the first hurdle on June 2 with the star-studded host team Den Bosch likely to follow a day later.

Garrard said: “We don’t set ourselves targets, even for league games, but in Europe it is vital to win that first game so we must strive to perform at our best from the first match.”