When Buckingham Hockey Club won the women’s Jaffa Super 6s in 2020, it was a proud day in the club’s history.
The 4-3 victory over Bowdon Hightown was exciting, thrilling and nail-biting in equal measure. It was also remarkable as it was only the club’s second season in the top division of the Indoor competition; the previous year they had also reached the final but lost to a dominant East Grinstead side.
It is hard to believe that the moment captain Alex Naughalty lifted the trophy was just a year ago. Since then the world of hockey, along with every other aspect of life, has become a shell of its normal exuberant self as activities have stopped and players have resorted to training alone in back gardens or home gyms.
With these dramatic changes still very much in force, we thought now was an appropriate moment to look back at one of the undoubted highlights of hockey in 2020.
“I think it will always be an amazing feeling and a huge sense of achievement,” says Alex Naughalty, as she reflects on her team’s achievements a year ago. “The whole day seems a bit of a blur now. I do remember that, going into the final, we had a lot of confidence in our own ability and it was brilliant to be able to prove that to everyone else. That confidence, along with the emotions in the moment the final whistle blew, are certainly incredible memories.”
Buckingham had come close the year before. In the 2019 final, they had lost to East Grinstead – the wrong side of a 10-2 scoreline. Naughalty says the memories of that outcome were playing on the players’ minds as they prepared for their encounter with the reigning champions.
“There were, of course, a lot of nerves and memories from the 2019 final playing in peoples’ minds, however we knew what we needed to do and how we needed to play. We also knew that if we performed as we knew we could, we could get the right outcome, so we did have the self-confidence. It is a long day to keep your concentration and hold back the nerves and excitement but I think as a team we did this very well, which put us in a great position to perform for the final.”
Masterminding the entire campaign was Head Coach Zak Jones. He says the victory was not so much about the performance on the day as much as it was the result of qualities that had been developing within the team over months, if not years.
“While there are obviously key moments in the games themselves like goals or saves, actually I feel the qualities that allowed us to succeed were embedded long beforehand. I feel there were three key qualities which had been built over a long period of time.
“Being a small club with very limited resources and not one of the most fashionable clubs, we continually have to fight against the odds. This builds real resilience and determination. This resilience was probably fuelled further by the final the year before and the feeling that, whilst East Grinstead were outstanding, we didn't really show our real selves in that game.
“Lastly but most importantly, there was a real sense of belief in ourselves and each other. This again had been building over time, but I feel only really came together when we drew with East Grinstead in the league phase. It was just that little bit of proof the girls needed to show that we could not only compete but succeed against the best.”
While the victory was a huge moment of pride in itself, both Jones and Naughalty believe the effects of the win are being felt by the entire outdoor league squad and throughout the club. Jones speaks of the pride felt by a small club with no real pedigree [until now]. Naughalty says the victory has led to much higher levels of confidence and a belief that, despite limited resources, the team can compete at the highest level.
“It was just an unbelievable day for all those directly involved and also for the club as a whole,” says Jones. “Thinking about it now brings a huge smile to my face and I am still so proud of the girls. It was also great to have so many neutrals get behind us and recognise and identify with the traits and values the team showed both on and off the pitch. Definitely a very special day.”
And Naughalty adds: “It is amazing to know what a little hard work and belief can result in. We learnt to trust the process and to not get bogged down with previous history and expectations. As a team we cannot wait for the European tournament and hopefully we will be able to do England Hockey justice, showing what we are capable of achieving.”