England and Great Britain Hockey have accepted the resignation of women’s Head Coach Mark Hager.
Hager, 57, has been away from his family in Australia and New Zealand since moving to Britain in January 2019. Having committed to and led the women’s programme over the past two-and-a-half years, this decision will enable him to move back to the Southern Hemisphere and re-unite with his wife, children and grandchildren.
He leaves after leading the British women’s team to a third successive Olympic medal as they secured bronze in Tokyo. This was the latest achievement in Mark’s successful career as both a coach and player. The second highest goal scorer in Australian history, he won Olympic and World Cup bronze medals playing for the nation and also captained his country. Having been assistant coach as Australia’s men won Olympic bronze in 2008, he was then head coach of New Zealand’s women for a decade, winning a memorable Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2018.
Mark said: “I have thought long and hard over the last few months, and especially since returning from Tokyo, but I feel the time has come to return home to family and learn to become a husband, father and grandfather all over again.
“My time with Great Britain and England Hockey has been enjoyable and one I will cherish always because the support from everyone involved within the programme has made the last few years so memorable. I leave with much pride in what has been achieved by the teams and know that the future is bright in what is a world class programme.
“To the players I have had the privilege to coach, as well as the staff involved within our programme over the last two-and-a-half years, a big thank you for making me feel so welcome. You have all made this chapter in my life very enjoyable. I will always have a special place in my heart for Great Britain and England Hockey and am so appreciative to have been given the opportunity to lead such a well run programme on and off the field.
“I wish great future success for the programme as the next chapter evolves and look forward to maintaining a connection with all the great people I have been fortunate enough to meet during my time here. Once again, thank you.”
Great Britain Hockey’s Performance Director Ed Barney commented: “I would like to thank Mark for all his efforts and contribution in the last two-and-a-half years. I fondly recall the recruitment process and many conversations with Mark during the men’s World Cup in 2018. Mark has made an almost incomprehensible sacrifice to join us in Great Britain and we are hugely appreciative of that.
“Obviously, we had no concept of the pandemic and the added challenges, pressures and restrictions this would bring. On behalf of England and Great Britain, I’d like to offer our sincere thanks to Mark, his wife Michelle and his family. I know the squad and staff will thoroughly look forward to catching up with the Hager family when playing in the Southern Hemisphere.
“I’m sure Mark will continue to be a presence in the hockey world, whilst perhaps balancing this with the jubilation of watching his grandchildren set the rugby field alight and getting back out on the fishing boat.
“With the FIH Hockey Pro League, Commonwealth Games and women’s World Cup all taking place in 2022, it is a very exciting time for the next head coach to come in and help mould a talented group of players. Although Tokyo has only just been and gone, the squad’s desire to reset, push hard and kick on for Paris and Los Angeles is shining through. The recruitment process will begin imminently and I am sure we will have a world class pool of candidates.”
Captain Hollie Pearne-Webb said: “On behalf of the women’s squad I would like to say thank you to Mark and very best wishes for the future. When Mark told me the news over lunch this week I was extremely sad but I also know how much he has missed his family over the past 15 months and I can’t imagine how difficult that has been. We have all made sacrifices but what Mark has experienced has been above and beyond what most of us could cope with, and I’m so glad we could win the bronze medal in what will now be his final game as Head Coach.
“Of course, hockey is in his blood and I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing him again soon enough somewhere on the other side of the world! I have thoroughly enjoyed his company in the past two-and-a-half years and hope he enjoys whatever comes next for him, Michelle and his family.”