CHICHESTER Hockey Club are ready to take to the national stage.
Their men’s first team has been promoted to the NOW Pensions Men’s East Conference – their highest-ever level – and it promises to be a big season for the whole club.
They kick off the campaign at Brighton on Saturday (4pm).
Their elevation to the national set-up echoes the success of the city’s rugby club, who kicked off their first campaign at the higher level with a memorable victory at the weekend.
The club have been eager to ensure everything is in place to provide the men’s first team with every opportunity to make their mark.
Many people at the club who have worked tirelessly in the summer to prepare – predominately chairman Tom Proctor and team manager Mark Pacey.
Chichester have bid farewell to two players – Tom Phillips and Luke Matthews – who have both moved to London with work.
But the squad welcome back former stars Martin Gough, Richard Blakesley, Connor McLaughlin, Gerald Cox and Luke Emmett, and say hello to new arrivals Mike Spice, Matt Sewell and Alex Salmon.
Captain Jack Lewrwill said: “For the first time in a couple of seasons, we have a full competitive squad of 20 which will create competition for spaces and selection headaches for the management, which is healthy.”
The squad have been put through their paces over the past two months by fitness coach Alex Thakore.
Pre-season fixtures against Lewes, Fareham, Havant, Bath and Guildford – four of whom have national-league experience – saw Chichester compete well and show promise.
Lerwill said: “The team know they can compete and beat any team in the league but must adapt to the physicality and increased speed of the league. How quickly we do this will have a large impact on how successful we can be.
“The team have worked extremely hard in pre-season but the real work begins on Saturday. The squad are physically ready and pre-season matches have allowed new players to settle in. It is an exciting time for all at the club.”
The first XI’s opening home action comes with a double-header on the weekend of September 20-21. They host Worthing in the Sussex Cup on Saturday and Richmond in the league on Sunday.
The rest of the club is thriving, too. Their aim is simple: to bring good-quality hockey to the community through top-notch facilities and an excellent weekly coaching plan.
They have 15 teams, all successful in their own right.
A handful of members played for England veterans in The Hague in the summer in the Grand Masters tournament.
A packed social calendar ensures members of different sections often meet up. One big annual event is the ‘club day’ – taking place this year on Sunday, September 28.
Chichester have five men’s squads, two veterans’ teams and two development sides.
The boys’ development team the Cherubs did exceptionally well last season.
With England Hockey focusing on the number of female players in the game, the club are proud of their ladies’ section and say there’s never been a better time to pick up a stick.
In 2013-14 the ladies’ first XI were promoted into the Sussex premier division and the thirds have gone up into division two.
Other ladies’ teams did well to retain their places in current divisions – including the ever-growing under-16s asserting themselves in the girls’ development league.
Many of the current senior players at the club started at a young age in development teams. This gives the club a great ethos with the older players supporting younger or new members.
People can join the hockey club at any time with or without experience. The aim this season is to increase numbers and create further links within the community, particularly with higher education centres and schools. Membershipfor full-time students is now only £75, the same as for juniors.
Anyone keen to get involved in the club should email firstname.lastname@example.org