GB U21 star: my season review
Jonty Griffiths is an EVO sponsored player & coach. He is a current Great Britain & England U23 international and plays for Loughborough University Men's Hockey Club. Here, he blogs for EVO Hockey about an unbelievable season - success with Great Britain & winning the quadruple with his club.
Follow Jonty on Twitter (@jontygriffiths)
The only word to describe this season is unforgettable. As we sat round the table at pre-season discussing the season’s objectives, the one question that was continually asked by the squad was “Would you rather win BUCS or get promoted?” We joked to ourselves “We can do it all!” To win all four competitions we were entered for, and so to say win the “Quadruple” would be a great challenge, but what we achieved as a team this year would go beyond what many of us had believed possible.
As the season started, we got better with each game that passed. In October, I was selected for the Great Britain U21 side to go and compete in the Sultan of Johor Cup, Malaysia. Unbelievably, we won Gold medal, recording Great Britain’s its first major U21 competition win in many years. The feeling of winning on an international stage was immense. The level of support we received from the crowd, children asking you for your signature and seeing yourself playing on national television was all but surreal. When we arrived back in England it was back to normality however winning this competition had given me the winning appetite and I knew that it could be the start of an incredible journey for the season. Over the Christmas break, on the back of our promotion into the top indoor league last year, we achieved safety in the last game of the competition. This sent down Beeston and Holcombe, two of the biggest hockey clubs in England, demonstrating the resilience of the team which would be challenged many times over the next few months.
We continued with our great form all the way through to the crunch time of the season. It was all in our hands. We had won the Northern League by 9 points and had beaten Durham to become the Northern BUCS league champions. 2 down 2 to go! We arrived in the knockout BUCS final in Sheffield, having beaten Nottingham and Durham both at home in the quarter and semi -final retrospectively. The support we received from the Loughborough Hockey Club was unbelievable and this wouldn’t stop until we brought home the trophy. As we arrived in Sheffield, we were the favourites to win, however we came up against a resilient Exeter team, making it very hard for us to break them down. We got the all-important goal in the second half, winning the game 1-0. We were BUCS champions! 3 down 1 to go!
After winning the North Conference we faced the winners from the East, West and the second bottom team from the National Conference, in a round robin, with the top two teams going up. The games were split across two weeks, with one game the first and two on the second at Lee Valley, the Olympic Pitch. We got off to a great start winning our game first game 3-0 against Cardiff. We knew that one win in the next two games would all but secure our promotion dream. In the week following up to the all-important two games, I travelled to Germany with the England U21, to play in a test series game. We defeated the Germans 3-2 and drew 4-4, giving us a test series win. This was topped off by having the honour of captaining my country.
Our second game was against Richmond. We came out the blocks flying, playing at a great intensity which blew them away, and winning the game 5-0. Only a 10-0 loss in our last game would see our dream disappear. The last game was against Canterbury. We started off slowly failing a goal behind. However, like so much of the season we showed great belief and determination to get ourselves back in front. As we began to tire into the second half, we ended up losing 4-2; however our dream of promotion had been achieved. 4 out of 4! The “Quad” had been completed!
Winning competitions with your university mates is one of the best feelings. We are the best of mates, training together, whether on the pitch or in the gym, always pushing each other to the next level. We showed determination and willingness to fight for each other throughout the whole season and rightly celebrated in style! As I write this, it is the evening of our Summer Ball, where for one last time we will be able to celebrate as a club before drawing a line under the season.
I would like to thank my sponsors for the support they have shown me this season, being JDH, Barrington Sports and EVO Hockey. They have been fantastic in supplying support and equipment over the season and look forward to the continued relationship over the next season. I would also like to thank David Lloyd Gym, who gave me the opportunity to train over the Christmas and Easter periods, always staying ahead of the opposition and Neil Murphy, Bytes Technology Group, for the continued support received.