UoN’s First Team Hockey Captains Preview their Season Opener this weekend

uon hockey match
Vinay Patel

Ahead of their respective season openers on Saturday, I got the chance to speak with UoN’s first team hockey captains: Max Anderson and Maddy Axford. This weekly segment will feature interviews from players and coaches alike, aiming to give you a general roundup and preview of the first team(s) in action. Vinay Patel was on hand to discuss season objectives, international experiences and the vuvuzela effect.

After inheriting the armband from Archie ‘Foz’ Foster, Max Anderson speaks on his hopes for the Men’s 1s this season.

After avoiding relegation last season, what are some of the lessons you’ve learnt going into this season?

“It’s good that some of us have that Premier Division experience from last season but I think more than anything, we have to understand as a team, the importance of every game in the league as well as game management. There were a few games last year where we could have picked up points but we just didn’t get over the finish line.”

With the double header taking place at DRSV, how important is home advantage in your games?

You’ve got the crowd chanting, singing and making noise with their vuvuzelas, you know it’s always going to be good fun

“I think for us as a university team, home advantage is absolutely massive. You’ve got the crowd chanting, singing and making noise with their vuvuzelas, you know it’s always going to be good fun for us. It’s always going to be difficult for the opponent, as it’s never nice to play hockey whenever you’re getting a bit of chat in your ear is it? I think it’s absolutely massive and it can really help us out this year.”

What sort of game are you expecting against Premier Division holders, Old Georgians on Saturday?

“I think we’re obviously expecting a very difficult one. As I said, we’re a new squad and so for us it’s just about hitting the ground running in the league and finding our feet early. Obviously with Old Georgians, you expect a lot, we know that they’re going to be such a good team. So hopefully, we can get as much as we can out of the game and if we’re fortunate enough, we’ll come away with some points.”

As I discussed with James Bateman in my most recent interview, Max represented the England under-21s over the summer, notably captaining the side in their two games against Malaysia.

What was it like representing the England under-21s over the summer?

Trying to help them gel together taught me a lot, which I could then bring into this squad

“It was brilliant and a very busy summer. We played against some of the top nations in the world, travelled all over the place and it was really good experience. Again, that was another young team and for me it was a really good learning experience. Whenever we have such a new team, trying to help them gel together taught me a lot, which I could then bring into this squad at the university. It was a brilliant experience and good fun.”

With the under-21 EuroHockey Championships in the summer and the Olympics in Paris, could this be one of the most important campaigns to date?

“Yeah absolutely, for me personally and the team, I think it’s an absolutely massive season coming up. We’ve got a Malaysia trip with the GB group, hopefully coming up at the end of October and then we’ve got the Euros next year. As I said, it was quite a young squad this year for the under-21s, so we learned a lot and built up the squad throughout the summer.”

“We’ve got good experience playing together, which I think can be a massive advantage when facing the other nations, that may have a lot of players moving from the under-21s, to the senior team. It’s an absolutely massive hockey campaign and hopefully I can just thrive in it, play some good hockey and see where I get.”

To round things off, I managed to get a final word from the captain…

“I just wanted to express our excitement as a team to get going in the Premier Division and our BUCS campaign. As a university team to be playing in the Premier Division, it’s a real privilege and really exciting. We’re very fortunate to be in this position, we just want to do well as a team and see what happens.”

Also new to captaincy is Maddy Axford, taking over from fellow England U-21 international, Katie Curtis. We had a quick chat about her ambitions for the Ladies 1s in their upcoming season.

Aside from staying in the Premier Division, what are your season objectives this year?

“One of our season objectives, which is quite ambitious, is that we want to score five goals a game and on top of that, we’re looking to finish the top four of the Premier Division this season.”

The tight-knit nature of your squad was described as being pivotal to your success last season. How important is it to integrate new members of the squad to maintain that bond this season?

The first years […] look up to the older players, who will definitely look after them in turn

“It’s super important, I think. The University of Nottingham has always been lucky in terms of finding a balance between social hockey and academia, which plays a massive part in having a tight knit group. So I think this season, with the first years coming in, it will just happen naturally and they’ll look up to the older players, who will definitely look after them in turn.”

How important is the introduction of the Saturday double-headers, in terms of support?

“I think it’s really good that we do these double headers to actually get the university out there, especially in terms of hockey. It’s really nice for the parents to come and watch, especially if they have not been able to make all the games last year. It’s just really good for exposure, getting us fired up for the games and we really enjoy it.”

A you try to balance playing elite level hockey with the workload of your degree, how important is time management?

“Yeah, I would say time management is very important. I think with such a tight knit group around us, it helps with the committee, as well as other members of the team but I think that’s one of the main things that ensures our success. Our coach is also really good at time management, for instance if we need to miss a training session for academic reasons, that’s super easy and he completely understands, so it’s really good.”

As previously discussed in my interview with James, Maddy was one of four UoN girls who were selected to represent the England under-21s in the 4 Nations Tournament, held in Germany over the break.  

What was it like representing the England under-21s in the 4 Nations Tournament?

We were able to play some different countries, that we don’t get to play very often

“It was really fun and nice to play with some of the incoming players that hadn’t been there previously. I think it was really good in the lead up to the Junior World Cup, at the end of this year. It was really important that we were able to play some different countries, that we don’t get to play very often, such as India and Spain. I think it was just really good for us to grow and develop as a team.”

The Ladies 1s kick off the Saturday double header against Loughborough Students at 4.30pm, with the Men’s 1s game taking place shortly after, at 6.30pm, against Old Georgians. 

Vinay Patel

Featured image courtesy of UoN Sport. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 1 courtesy of @uonmhc and @uonlhc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

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