From geography teacher to scoring against Australia - Shipperley's rapid rise

The saying ‘with great risk comes great reward’ could not be more pertinent when describing the last few months for Rupert Shipperley.

Last December, the Welsh international quit his job as a geography teacher in order to pursue a place on the full-time Great Britain programme based at Bisham Abbey.

Having been training with the team for several weeks at the end of the year, Shipperley took the bold decision in order to give himself the best possible chance of earning the contract.

In January he was then called up GB’s opening games of the 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League away to Australia and New Zealand, with head coach Danny Kerry saying at the time ‘we want to expose him against some of the leading sides to see if he’s got what it takes’.

“I was told a decision would be made after the Australia/New Zealand trip so that was effectively my trial,” Shipperley explained. 

“I felt like I played well out there; I trained well too. But it’s one of those subjective decisions - luckily I was on the right side of it.

“I was relieved and very happy when I got the call offering me the contract.”

The Hampstead & Westminster player’s debut was almost perfect as he scored in a game where GB led the Kookaburras 4-2, only for the team ranked second to claw it back to 4-4 before securing the bonus point in the shootout.

GB’s men then picked up another draw and a win against New Zealand the following weekend, with Shipperley playing in all four games across the trip.

Speaking about his maiden GB trip, the 28-year-old said: “I was a little bit nervous, it was a bit like getting my first cap again for Wales; it reminded me of those emotions. 

“Scoring on debut is always nice. I was absolutely shattered at the time, hence the celebration where I just stood still! It was a bit of a gift, I couldn’t have asked much more than for a free pass on the penalty spot but it was a good experience. I managed to take it all in, despite the heat and the exhaustion.

“Obviously I still want to win whatever the situation so it was gutting not to put Australia away in the first game. We were trying new things across all the games and to get the win against New Zealand was good, as well as the draw. 

“In the moment you’re just playing a hockey game – yeah you’re playing for GB but you don’t think about that too much when you’re playing. It’s just you versus them at the end of the day - you just want to win.”

While the prospect of playing any future FIH Hockey Pro League matches or appearing at the Olympics this year are very much up in the air, it has still been a fantastic few months for Shipperley that have proved the risk was worth taking.

When asked if he could believe how much had happened in a short space of time, he said: “No not really. I guess I knew what the circumstances were when I left my job and at the moment everything is going to plan. 

“It’s still a bit surreal. I met a few friends that I used to work with as a teacher quite recently and it felt a bit distant, everything has moved on so quickly but at the same time it feels like I’ve been here for years. 

“Coming here every day with the guys, it feels like I’ve been here a long time but at the same time it’s going quickly. Everything is going to plan.”