Wimbledon’s Suzy Petty hopes to make her mark on GB hockey team after selection for next Olympic cycle
It has now been six months since a nation watched transfixed as Team GB’s hockey stars claimed a stunning Olympic title — yet it still seems to be the story on every fan’s lips.
The success has excited many followers of British hockey, with the fact that tickets for England’s re-match against The Netherlands in June sold out in less than two hours more than proving this.
However, while it may be an incredibly thrilling time for hockey on these shores, caution must be exercised.
Talismanic captain Kate Richardson-Walsh has already confirmed she is stepping away from international hockey and there are question marks over the futures of some key members of the side that won the historic gold back in Rio.
But with retirements come opportunities for exciting and talented young players to make their mark and establish themselves in the team.
Wimbledon’s Suzy Petty is one of a number hoping to do just that.
The former Beeston midfielder was one of 15 new faces selected by Great Britain coach Danny Kerry for the next Olympic cycle and is hoping to make her England debut later this month as the team travel to South Africa to play two Test matches.
Petty is no stranger to the international set-up, having won bronze medals for the Under-21 side at the 2013 Youth Olympics in Sydney and at the EuroHockey Junior Championships the year before – the latter as captain – and revealed that she was delighted to have been called up to the side building towards Tokyo 2020.
“It was amazing to be selected — I was relieved, happy and just so excited to start training,” the 24-year-old said.
“I was on the Tube when I found out but couldn’t open the attachment because of the lack of signal.
“I just thought I hadn’t got in and it took about half an hour to actually open the file.
“But I was thrilled — it also made me think that I can now just get on with my hockey because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never know if it’s actually going to be a job or not.
“If I’d known they were bringing so many new faces I might have been a bit more relaxed about it but I initially thought they were going to bring in just five. So I wasn’t expecting to get in but I was certainly hoping.”
Petty and Wimbledon team-mate Rose Thomas are the only players in the central squad not plying their trade in the top tier of club hockey, with the south west London outfit currently featuring in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Conference East, one level below the Premier Division.
This was something that Petty was more than aware of when choosing which side to join having moved to London in the summer after graduating with a 2:1 in Sport and Exercise Science from Loughborough University, but felt it was the best place to go in order to claim a spot in the team.
She has become an integral part of the side that currently sit atop the league — having won 11 of their 12 fixtures and scoring her first goal for the club in a 9-1 thumping of St Albans earlier this month.
She believes that her sparkling form this season has played an instrumental role in her inclusion for the next Olympic cycle.
“I was at Loughborough for six years and played for both the university side and Beeston in Nottingham.
“But I wanted to move down here and give myself the best available option to get centralised,” she explained.
“Obviously Wimbledon aren’t in the Premier Division — but that is probably the only negative thing about the club.
“Everything else is incredible — the clubhouse is amazing, the coaches that we have are amazing – and I was having to weigh up the option, asking myself whether I wanted to go to a prem side or if I wanted to go to a club that’s actually really cool.
“If you look at our facilities, they’re amazing. The boys are so good, the best in the country, and we’re hoping to replicate that.
“I’ve been fortunate enough along the way to have had many coaches who have been great but I’m sure it has also helped playing at Wimbledon.”
Having made her debut for the senior team back in 2014, scoring against the USA, many believed Petty could become an integral part of the side in the run-up to Rio.
But that never quite materialised as she was overlooked in favour of others and was not awarded a central contract, leading many to believe that her time at the very top of the game had been and gone.
Not Petty though. Instead of letting the disappointment get to her, it has spurred her on to work harder than ever before to reclaim her place in the set-up and prove her doubters wrong, something she believes she will do over the next four years.
She said: “One memory from my career that that sticks out is not funny or anything like that but it’s something that I was taught.
“In 2013 I got three or four caps for Great Britain under Jason Lee and then I didn’t get a contract.
“That’s something that sticks out because I got a taste of it and a lot of people probably would’ve have thought I’d had my opportunity and then gone and lost it.
“I was fortunate that England had an Under-23 team so I kept on that programme and then because I kept going I had the opportunity to make it.
“That’s something I’ve learned and if anything in my hockey career sticks out it’s that point of getting it, losing it and then having to fight for it again.”