The 2019/20 season is an exciting one for Hampstead and Westminster Hockey Club, after celebrating their 125 anniversary with unparalleled success for the club last year. The Men's 1st XI won their first England Hockey title and will now travel to the EHL in October to take on some of Europe's best. The Ladies' 1st XI won the end of season play-offs after successfully defending their East Conference title, to now step up to challenge in the Premier League for the first time in the club's history.
HWHC Director of Hockey Richard 'Smudge' Smith said, "I'm really excited and looking forward to the season ahead, with two top division teams now. It's been a great journey over the past few years, with plenty of hard work for both the 1st teams and the whole club and I am looking forward to seeing if we can continue to make strides both on and off the pitch as a club - whilst of course making sure we continue to enjoy ourselves in the process!"
Last season's England Hockey Champions, Hampstead & Westminster Men's 1st XI have kept virtually the entire squad, and added a mix of youth and European experience to bolster their defence of the title and debut in the EHL.
Player/Coach Kwan Browne is very excited for the new challenge of Europe, and defending their England Hockey title. Going into his fourth season with the club Browne has kept a big part of the performance squad (including the 2nd XI who are now playing South Prem hockey after dominating the London Premier League for over a decade) at the club relatively unchanged every season, calling it the club's X Factor, just adding two or three players a year for a new edge "every year getting better and better, going further and further". On Europe, Kwan sees the EHL challenge as bigger than the club "playing for England and doing well, fighting to get an extra spot the following year for England, and putting on a good show"
Jacob Draper joins us from Cardiff Met, after graduating from Swansea University with a 1st class degree in Economics.
Draper will line up in Maida Vale with several of his Welsh international team mates and although only just 21, already has over 40 caps for Wales and helped the senior side to a silver medal and promotion at the European Championships II. And more recently captained the U21s to a gold medal and promotion at the European Championship III.
Jacob is also part of the Great Britain EDP squad, and lifted the U21 Sultan of Johor trophy in 2018.
Draper's countryman Hywel Jones also joins us this season, from the University of Birmingham.
Hywel has worked his way up through the age groups of Wales hockey and now has 27 senior caps to his name, recently with a 5th place finish at the 2019 FIH World Series in Malaysia, and in 2018 represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Men's 1s head coach Kwan Browne has also signed two Europeans with good experience on the continent.
German forward Götz Mahdi joins after ten years playing in the Bundesliga for Nürnberger Hockey Club. And Belgian Gaston Golstein has moved to London to continue his post graduate studies in industrial design at the Royal College of Art. Gaston played for many seasons at Belgian top four side Racing Leopold Club, and helped them to the EHL Quarter Final in 2016.
Ladies' coaches Kate Richardson-Walsh and Sarah Kelleher have brought in four players with masses of Premier League and International quality to strength the squad.
Great Britain defender Grace Balsdon moves from Canterbury, bringing a lot of experience to our back line, with an added bonus of being lethal from a Penalty Corner!
Grace made her senior international debut in 2014 after progressing through the junior ranks. She has gone on to win over 50 caps for England and GB, playing in the World League, World Cup, Pro League and bringing home a Bronze medal from the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Grace is excited about the move to Maida Vale and sees joining HWHC as a 'great opportunity to be challenged by new coaches and be part of the club's first step into the Premier League"
Former GB midfielder Joie Leigh returns to England after a season playing in the Dutch Hoofdklasse for Hurley following six years in Bristol with Clifton Robinsons.
Joie made her senior international debut in 2013 after progressing through the junior teams. She went on to win over 50 caps for England and GB, picking up a World League Semi Final Gold medal in 2015, but sadly missed out on the Olympic gold medal in 2016 after traveling to Rio as a reserve.
One of the most exciting forwards in international hockey will be playing at Pad Rec this season as GB star striker Lily Owsley joins us from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Sports Science.
Having been on the international scene for so long, it's easy to forget that Lily is still only 24, but has well over 100 caps for GB and England, an Olympic and European gold medal, and 36 goals to her name after making her debut in 2013. She has incredible pace and is one of the most exciting players to watch on a hockey pitch.
On joining HWHC Lily is targeting a top four finish in the first season "I joined Hampstead because it is an up and coming, ambitious and social team, and am very excited for this new chapter in their history. This season I'm looking to settle in and get involved with the club and achieve a top four place"
Holly Hunt also moves down from the Midlands with her Birmingham team mate joining us this season after also completing a degree in Sports Science.
Midfielder Holly played three years in the top flight at the University of Birmingham, picking up 2 BUCS gold medals along the way.
Holly made her senior GB debut this year in the Pro League v China after a successful rise through the junior ranks winning European bronze with England U18 and U21 and played in the Junior World Cup with England U21.
Richardson-Walsh and Kelleher are focused and ready for the new season to start, "We are looking forward to the exciting challenges that Premier League hockey will bring this coming season. We want to build on the fantastic achievements of last season and take the next step on our journey. We are pleased that Joie Leigh, Holly Hunt, Lily Owsley and Grace Balsdon will be joining the squad and adding yet more quality to an already competitive and strong group."