The England Hockey womenÔÇÖs squad has been announced for the 2011 Rabo Champions Trophy in Amsterdam. The 18 athlete group features Anne Panter and Anna Bennett, two players who return to the fold following lengthy breaks, and Sam Quek and Madeleine Hinch, for whom the tournament will be their first senior international competition.
Beijing Olympian Anne Panter is selected after overcoming a career threatening knee injury that saw her undergo a pioneering double operation never previously conducted. The Kettering-born midfielder underwent a reconstruction of the post cruciate ligament in her left knee, involving a hamstring graft from both legs, and a patella tendon debridement.
Having spent two and a half years on the sidelines, the 27 year old midfielder returned to club hockey earlier this season, helping Leicester to this weekendÔÇÖs EuroHockey Club Champions Cup semi final against Slough. She began training with the Great Britain squad as part of its centralised training programme at the turn of the year and, having played a series of practice games, is now preparing for her first competitive international match since the Beijing Olympic Games.
Panter said: ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs quite surreal to be back in the squad and IÔÇÖm not sure it has really sunk in yet. This time last year I couldnÔÇÖt walk never mind play hockey. At the end of 2009 I thought I might never play hockey again so to be going to one of the biggest tournaments in the world, playing against the best teams in the world, is incredible. I feel very lucky to get another bite at the cherry. Getting back is only a part of the journey though. The next step is to be part of a team winning medals.
ÔÇ£I want to express my huge gratitude to my surgeon, Andy Williams, for being a genius in the operating theatre and to thank Michelle Pearson of the English Institute for Sport for never doubting IÔÇÖd get back to where I am now. Since my return to playing, Dave Hamilton, our strength and conditioning coach, has been great and the rest of the squad has created such a fantastically positive environment to return to.ÔÇØ
Amsterdam will also see the return of Anna Bennett, whose last cap came more than seven years ago. The 35 year old Reading forwardÔÇÖs last international appearance came for Great Britain, against Ireland, at the 2004 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Having spent ten years at the top following her debut as an 18 year old in 1994, Bennett left the sport following Great BritainÔÇÖs failure to qualify for the Athens Olympics. However, following a successful comeback with hometown club Reading this year, she returns to the squad to add to her 189 international appearances, a tally that makes her the third most capped player in the group.
Speaking about her return, Bennett said: ÔÇ£I never thought I would come back and play international hockey. IÔÇÖd had my time and had the time of my life doing it, travelling the world and playing hockey. But I thought my time had been. It was last year while doing some coaching at Reading that I decided to start playing again. It was nice to be in that hockey environment and I was inspired by seeing the girls at the club. IÔÇÖm lucky that IÔÇÖve got a body that has allowed me to return. IÔÇÖm really enjoying it and thatÔÇÖs very much the key.
ÔÇ£I hope that we can go to Amsterdam and realise the potential of this side. IÔÇÖm playing in a squad of very talented players; not just the 18 of us going to the Champions Trophy but the entire squad who train together every day. I hope we can represent the squad in a positive way and do justice to the effort we are putting into the centralised training programme.ÔÇØ
Sam Quek will receive her first experience of a major international tournament at senior level after receiving the call up for the Champions Trophy. The former Bowdon Hightown defender, now with England Hockey League rivals Reading, was a member of the England U21 side that finished a best ever fourth position at the 2009 Junior World Cup in Boston.
Another player set for their first senior international tournament is LeicesterÔÇÖs young goalkeeper Madeleine Hinch. Just 22, she has been named alongside Reading goalkeeper Beth Storry, the winner of the Goalkeeper of the Tournament Award at last yearÔÇÖs Champions Trophy in Nottingham and World Cup in Rosario.
England Hockey Head Coach Danny Kerry said: ÔÇ£This squad reflects a growing depth across all areas. The inclusion of Anna Bennett follows her return to club hockey this year after a long lay-off following the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2004 Athens Olympics. Anna brings tremendous pace, a huge work ethic and a good goal sense. Anne PanterÔÇÖs selection marks an incredible journey of rehabilitation following a unique injury to repair simultaneously her PCL and patella tendon. Her selection is testimony to the work of the surgeon, Andy Williams, the strength and conditioning coaches, in particular Michelle Pearson, and to Anne herself who has shown the resolve to overcome the odds. Anne brings us flexible options across the lines, an ability to cover large distances repeatedly and a good game intelligence.
ÔÇ£Sam QuekÔÇÖs inclusion follows a lengthy period of being in the senior squad after joining the group at a young age. She has a remarkable ball winning quality with incredible agility and dexterity in the tackle. I am delighted for all three athletes and look forward to seeing how they step up to playing in one of the worldÔÇÖs toughest competitions.ÔÇØ
After an historic 2010 in which England won bronze medals for the first time at the Champions Trophy and the World Cup, as well as at the Commonwealth Games, the team goes into the Champions Trophy ranked fifth in the world. Now comprising eight teams as opposed to the six that have previously competed, England face world champions Argentina, China and Korea in Pool A in Amsterdam. Pool B contains Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
For Kerry, the 2011 Champions Trophy could play an important part in the preparation his Great Britain squad has for the 2012 Olympic Games in just over a yearÔÇÖs time.
Speaking about the tournament, he said: ÔÇ£Those selected for England have come out of the centralised Great Britain squad. Our priority is to qualify for the 2012 edition of the Champions Trophy. Although we would play as England in most years, Great Britain will be able to compete in 2012 as the tournament falls in the calendar year of the Olympic Games. This will be an important part of final preparations for London 2012 and thus our first priority is to ensure qualification. The Champions Trophy is a real test of the quality of your group with every team being of the highest level. This will provide further exposure to our squad as we keep building the understanding over the Olympic cycle.
ÔÇ£We start our tournament by playing the World Champions and world number one Argentina against whom we had a tight match in the World Cup last year. We know objectively that we have moved forward since then and it will be great to see where that now places us against the top ranked team.ÔÇØ
Following EnglandÔÇÖs opening match on Saturday 25 June against Argentina, whose team includes Luciana Aymar, the seven times World Player of the Year, England will face Korea, ranked eighth in the world. China, ranked one place ahead of England at fourth in the world, conclude EnglandÔÇÖs Pool A fixtures.
England Squad for Rabo Champions Trophy, 25 June ÔÇô 3 July
Name (Club) Position England Caps/England Goals - Great Britain Caps/Great Britain Goals - Age
Ashleigh Ball (Slough) Midfield 37/1 - 5/0 - 25
Anna Bennett (Reading) Forward 125/29 - 64/11 - 35
Crista Cullen (Leicester) Defender 82/21 - 54/15 - 25
Alex Danson (Reading) Forward 112/26 - 36/9 - 26
Rebecca Herbert (Leicester) Forward 58/5 - 18/2 - 24
Madeleine Hinch (Leicester) Goalkeeper 1/0 - 1/0 - 22
Hannah Macleod (Leicester) Forward 35/4 - 6/1 - 26
Anne Panter (Leicester) Midfield 40/1 - 33/1 - 27
Sam Quek (Reading) Defender 4/0 - 14/0 - 22
Helen Richardson (Reading) Midfield 135/19 - 63/3 - 29
Chloe Rogers (Leicester) Midfield 88/9 - 40/3 - 26
Beth Storry (Reading) Goalkeeper 64/0 - 23/0 - 33
Georgie Twigg (Clifton) Midfield 17/2 - 2/0 - 20
Laura Unsworth (Leicester) Defender 36/0 - 9/0 - 23
Kate Walsh (C) (Reading) Defender 173/29 - 85/7 - 31
Sally Walton (Bowdon Hightown) Defender 75/7 - 13/1 - 29
Nicola White (Slough) Forward 34/3 - 11/0 - 23
Kerry Williams (Leicester) Forward 53/1 - 19/1 - 25
EnglandÔÇÖs Rabo Champions Trophy Fixtures
Saturday 25 June - 11:30 local time - 10:30 BST - Pool A - Argentina v England
Sunday 26 June - 09:00 local time - 08:00 BST - Pool A - England v Korea
Tuesday 28 June - 11:00 local time - 10:00 BST - Pool A - England v China
Thursday 30 June - Crossover Matches - Pools C & D
Friday 1 July - Crossover Matches - Pool D
Saturday 2 July - Crossover Matches - Pool C
Sunday 3 July - Medal Matches/Classification Playoffs
Source: England Hockey Media Release