“For me it was a real achievement to have the op and then, almost a year to the day, to be back playing and to win the Europeans,”

2012 World Cup Final V Australia O50s June - Web

June Blythe is an inspiration to many. She has been a stalwart for Woking HC for 45 years and has experienced plenty of highs on a hockey pitch for club, county and country. But if it wasn’t for a stroke of luck and one PE teacher, she may never have picked up a stick. 
 
An avid netballer, when one practice session was cancelled due to a lack of players, June was stuck as she wasn’t due to be picked up from school for a while. She asked her teacher what to do and they said ‘why don’t you go and give hockey a go?’ June hasn’t looked back since. 

Having learned the game with the school, that same teacher then encouraged her and a few team-mates to join Woking, a club she has never left. 
 
There has been a lot to celebrate since then - a gold medal at indoor county finals with Surrey, winning the 2019 European Championships with England O55s and returning to play after a major hip operation. 

June Blythe 2019 Europeans
 
Perhaps her fondest memories though are those she has with the Woking team that went on an extraordinary journey to the National League. 
 
Having been told by some she’d have to leave Woking in order to reach the highest level of English domestic hockey, June proved the doubters wrong by helping the club rise up through the divisions to reach the National League. 
 
They endured a disastrous start to their first season at the top but managed to turn it around thanks to an amazing togetherness and spirit that means they are still friends now. 
 
“When I was younger, I didn’t have the confidence to leave Woking even though people said if I wanted to play in the National League I would have to move. I was happy to stay because all my friends were at Woking,” she said. 

“But we worked hard. We managed to win three leagues in a row and then got promoted into National League. It was all the girls ever wanted and that’s what we did. It was definitely the biggest achievement for the club.  

“The season didn’t start too well, I missed the first few games as I had just had Hayley [her daughter], but I was back playing about six weeks later. 

“I think we lost every game before Christmas and we decided to swap coaches. My husband came in as coach and we won all our games. 

“The girls were worried because they had spent all these years trying to get into National League and didn’t want to get relegated back down in a year.  

“The commitment was incredible; we trained twice a week, practised short corners before league games, no going out Friday night. It was an amazing time, we just loved it.  

 “We had such a great team spirit. As a team we were fantastic - individually we weren’t necessarily the most talented, but we worked well together and we were one of the fittest teams and we used it to our advantage. We still meet up for different things. The comradery and friendships have lasted for 30-40 years.” 

Centenary Celebrations at Woking Hockey Club 2019 web

She may now be 59 but there’s still no stopping June. She plays for Woking’s 4th XI, helping nurture the next generation of talent, and has also played for various England Masters teams for the last 14 years. 
 
She was part of the England O55s team that claimed a memorable European gold in Germany last summer, something she also recalls as one of her career highlights. 
 
Not only did it mean everything to win a tournament whilst representing her country, for June it also completed a remarkable journey that had started just over a year before when she feared she may no longer be able to pick up a stick again. 
 
Recalling it, she said: “This has to be one of my biggest moment. I had been having so many issues with my hip it was time to go and see a doctor.  
 
“After a consultation he told my hip was pretty much gone and needed a replacement. After I stopped crying I said ‘will I ever be able to play hockey again’? He looked at me and said ‘you need a new hip and you’re just worried about being able to play hockey?’” 
 
Although the surgery in the summer of 2018 meant she would miss the World Cup in Spain - “I was gutted but I couldn’t walk let alone play hockey” - June targeted being able to represent England at the 2019 Europeans. 
 
Despite what the doctors had suggested would and wouldn’t be possible, she made it and helped England secure the gold almost exactly a year after her operation. 
 
“For me it was a real achievement to have the op and then, almost a year to the day, to be back playing and to win the Europeans,” she said. 
 
“I did tentative training and a physio programme after a couple of months and I was very careful. In January 2019 I started training and was apprehensive but at a session in April I came off the pitch after an England training session and realised I had never thought about my hip once. That was when I knew I was ready to play again.” 

European Cup V Wales O55 WEB

June still has plenty to offer hockey too. 
 
As well as relishing being able to play masters hockey against foes she’s faced for decades, she is also hoping to represent England once again in the postponed World Cup next summer. 
 
She’s also reluctant to step away from a sport that has given her so much and she hopes her story can encourage many more to pick up a stick. 
 
“If I met someone today and had to tell them what hockey is all about, I’d say: it covers so many different things; it’s a sport that’s competitive but, if you’re not competitive, is also great for fitness; it is a great place to make friends and its very social.  

South Masters Champions & Club Team Mates web

A huge thank you to The Hockey Museum who put us in contact with June.

Find out more about The hockey Museum here.