Defroand & Howard Confident Success Will Come From Adversity

Jo Hunter Goal GB v Netherlands FIHPL2020
“I think the first game was quite a big shift in our mindset that we can not only compete with the top teams but be one of the best teams in the world.”

These are the words of Tess Howard and they were delivered without hesitation; she meant exactly what she said.

After an enforced break of more than six months, Great Britain’s men and women returned to action against The Netherlands and Belgium in the FIH Hockey Pro League back in October and November.

Despite 10 athletes being unavailable for selection, the women claimed an impressive point against reigning world champions The Dutch in the opening game.

With two players – Sophie Hamilton and Fiona Crackles - making their senior international debut, Mark Hager’s team fought back from conceding after just 90 seconds to secure a 1-1 draw, something Howard said made the squad realise just how far they’ve come over the last few months.

 “It was a strange moment when they scored the goal that they scored right at the beginning of the first game. We’d been on top, in their circle, creating pressure and then there’s this freak reverse stick hit that somehow gets through for a one-on-one,” the 21-year-old recalled. 

“We were all standing on the pitch like ‘hang on, this isn’t supposed to happen, we’re actually on top’. Maybe in previous games we would have gone ‘here we go again’ but in that moment we all looked at each other and thought ‘they’re not getting back into this game. We’re going to go and find this goal’. 

“That’s the spirit and attitude that we had throughout the trip. It was almost like the resilience from lockdown that we weren’t going to give up coming out on the pitch. It felt like we were there for a reason and we played with that mentality.”

Watching from home having been unable to travel due to injury, Emily Defroand never doubted that her team-mates would be able to get something from that match.

Having been part of the centralised programme since 2017, the Commonwealth and European bronze medallist has experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by the whole squad over the last four years.

From a change of head coach to senior players retiring or being unavailable for significant periods, it’s certainly been a challenging time for GB’s women.

That’s why she knows that the draw against the Dutch and subsequent performances against the Belgians – where they claimed five points from a possible six – are just an indicator of what #ThePride can hope to see from the team over the next year.

“Those matches really showed what we’re about as a squad,” the 26-year-old stated. 

“With that first goal, for anyone watching the game you may have though ‘oh gosh here we go, it’s going to be one-sided’. But the character and the desire and the perseverance with it all really shone through in that first game and then the other fixtures that came after. 

“The new additions to the team for that trip, that really highlighted the strength and depth within the squad and the EDP programme. GB Hockey is in a very good place and those matches over the last month or so signified that, even after the year we’ve had to overcome.”

2020/21 FIHPL Banner

You can watch Great Britain’s stars in action when the FIH Hockey Pro League returns to London for six double headers in May 2021. The Hockey Family Window is open now and you can save on all ticket types, including up to 20% on White and Blue Category Adult tickets. Plus, we’re offering a refund guarantee for all tickets. Click HERE to find out more.