By James Reid
Four former and current members of Durham University Hockey Club (DUHC) will represent their nations at this summer’s EuroHockey Championships.
Trio Jack Waller, Ollie Payne and Fiona Crackles will represent England while current goalkeeper Jack Tranter will be playing for Wales. It continues a long pattern of success for DUHC, who have produced a number of internationals in recent years such as Tess Howard – who misses out this summer due to injury – and Rhys Smith.
Palatinate spoke to current second-year Fiona Crackles in February after being called up to the GB senior squad full-time at the start of the year, and she was full of praise for DUHC: “The coaching and extra support staff is phenomenal and certainly had me in the best condition to join the central senior programme.”
Castle student Crackles made her GB debut against the Netherlands towards the end of 2020 and has now racked up eight international caps, with her latest inclusion a sure sign that there will be many more to come in the colours of both England and Great Britain.
Payne, who graduated in 2020, now has six caps at international level after first being called up to the GB men’s senior squad in July 2020 after making numerous appearances at youth level.
Both Payne and Crackles are in line to make their England debuts at this summer’s championships.
By contrast, 24-year-old Waller boasts more experience with 50 international caps, including playing at the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 EuroHockey Championships. He was also part of the squad that won the 2018 BUCS Championship.
Wales ‘keeper Tranter has accumulated 20 caps since debuting in 2018 and is currently Durham’s number one as they compete in the Premier Division for the first time.
Indeed, the promotion of the Men’s 1s to the Premier Division last year is but another sign of DUHC’s ever-increasing strength as one of the country’s finest university hockey programmes.
All four players will compete in the EuroHockey Championships that will take place over the course of the first two weeks in June and kicked off on Friday 4th June in the Netherlands. All games will be shown live on BT Sport with England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland all in action.
England men kicked off their campaign with a 5-0 victory over Russia, with both Payne and Waller in the starting XI, though a much tougher test will be against Belgium on Sunday. The women will kick off their campaign against Italy on Sunday before going up against Germany and Belgium.
Meanwhile Wales men kicked off with an 8-1 defeat to Germany, and will face against France and the Netherlands. Games will come thick and fast, with the semi-finals being played on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th June, and the finals over the weekend with the men on Saturday and women on Sunday.
England women won the EuroHockey championships in 1991 and 2015, 2019 were beaten 8-0 by the Netherlands in the semi-finals. For the men, their only victory came in 2009, failed to progress from the pool in 2019 but avoided relegation.
This year’s EuroHockey will have an extra edge, with fierce competition for places for the upcoming Olympics. GB women will be looking to retain their gold medal from Rio in 2016.
Image: Fiona Crackles