By Ollie Godden
It’s fair to say that men’s hockey has gone under the radar in recent times, paling in comparison to the superb achievements of their female counterparts at the Olympics. Few remember the dismal performances of Barry Middleton’s men, and understandably so, with two draws and a loss causing an early exit. Months later, a budding future Great Britain international arrived on the hill at Collingwood College. Ready to represent the 1st XI in their national league campaign, Jack Turner arrived with hype and expectation, and he has not disappointed. On 7th February, Turner learnt that his stellar performances had seen him named in Bobby Crutchley’s senior England squad of 21 that will be heading to South Africa to compete in tests against the hosts and Germany.
Turner started playing aged only four years old at Maidenhead Hockey Club when his dad took him down one weekend to “give it a go.” As a teenager, he moved to Marlow Hockey Club, close to Bisham Abbey, the home of English hockey, and therefrom his rise was meteoric. Turner went on to represent England U16 at the tender age of 14. U18 followed before he made his U21 bow in the summer of 2015 against Germany. Still only aged 19, Turner has already racked up over 40 junior international caps and has received a plethora of awards in the process, including being named GB U16 player of the year in 2013. Aged 17, Turner captained Sir William Borlase’s Grammar Schools’ U18 Indoor Hockey team, who were the first state school to become National Champions at U18 level. His leadership qualities were evident as he shepherded newcomers to the sport with great aplomb. Progressing onto university, the Woodsman has had the opportunity to represent an aforementioned successful Durham team currently playing in the National League, with a number of important games just around the corner.
Speaking of this opportunity, he remarked: “Big games don’t come around too often, and they’re a chance to really learn and improve as a player, so to be in a side good enough to reach these I view as important for my development.” Durham has also allowed Turner to continue his education whilst improving his game, a concept that he has found to be key in his progression in his short time at the institution. “Durham has been an invaluable facilitator in allowing me to progress with my hockey these past two terms”, he remarked. “The support networks which have been put in place through Team Durham and my academic departments have allowed me to spend a substantial time away from the university with England U21, whilst ensuring I can cope with all the work demands as well.”
In March, Turner will board a plane headed for Cape Town with the chance of winning his first senior cap. In a surreal turn of events, he was in his room in Collingwood when he received a personal email from England coach Bobby Crutchley, informing him that he had been selected. Invariably delighted at this news, Turner told Palatinate: “To even be considered for the senior trip to South Africa was fantastic, but to actually be going is truly honouring.” His modesty shone through in his dialogue, as he expressed his delight at being picked whilst simultaneously pointing out his honest realisation that no game time is guaranteed. The moment would, however, be something Turner has worked tirelessly for. “It being always been a goal of mine to play for the full team” he commented. “Although there’s no guarantee of any pitch time over there, to have the opportunity to experience a top level environment, along with the possibility of a cap, is something I have worked very hard for.”
Few could argue that Turner doesn’t deserve his chance at the senior level, having been a stand-out performer across the junior international ranks. Turner spearheads a trio of junior England internationals at Durham, with Rhys Smith and Jack Waller also selected for last December’s Junior World Cup in India. Durham, alongside Loughborough, had the most club representatives in the squad, and this is a fantastic demonstration of the strength of Durham’s hockey programme led by Gareth Weaver-Tyler. Turner’s achievements can also act as a catalyst for further triumphs for aspirational hockey players at Durham. Seeing the 19-year-old succeed will no doubt spur others on to believe they, too, can achieve such feats. Until then, we doff our hats in acknowledgement of Durham’s finest and one of England Hockey’s brightest young prospects.
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons