Island hockey stars ready for ‘biggest game in the calendar’

Izzy Heelis celebrating her second goal in the 2023 inter-insular, which proved to be the winner Picture: SOPHIE RABEY

INTER-insular season is well and truly under way, and after Jersey Netball’s dominance in Guernsey last weekend, hockey takes centre stage, with a keen eye on continuing that momentum on home soil tomorrow.

The feature event in the diary includes six matches in total, three for the men’s teams and three for the ladies’ squads, with St Michael’s School hosting the “threes” matches, while the first and second teams do battle at Les Quennevais.

Both the Caesarean first teams won last year in dramatic fashion, by just a lone goal, to stun a partisan Sarnian crowd and, with four out of six wins overall, they brought “The Big Stick” back to Jersey.

“It’s always the biggest game in our calendar,” said men’s player/coach, Tom Sibley.

“The rivalry has always been strong and we expect nothing less this time around.”

The men’s first team enjoyed a stunning 2-1 victory over the greens in 2023, with Sibley himself bagging the late winner and goalkeeper Piers Brandie pulling off a magnificent last-minute save to win the tie.

“Last year was my fourth time playing Guernsey and we had drawn the previous three,” added Sibley.

“It was nice to get that win finally and to score the winner as well was personally a special moment.

“Being a player and coach can be tricky at times.

“I always try and keep my speeches in the changing rooms short and sweet, but the guys know what’s expected of them when we step out on the pitch.

“I try and do my tactical bit in the changing rooms then hand over to Tom [Millar, captain] out on the pitch for the rousing motivational speech.”

Sam Watling, a fellow goalscorer last year, is one of three teenagers in the men’s ranks, something Sibley believes is a great asset.

He continued: “The men’s teams are pretty evenly matched, as previous results show.

“They have good players who can hurt us and they’ve proven that over recent years.

“We have some quality young talent coming through. Sam [Watling] played brilliantly last year and Jack [Stevens] and Will [Hodgson] have proven their worth and will play key roles for us.

“We’ve got a few lads back in our ranks from university. Jamie Watling in particular is a massive addition for us.

“Guernsey are always well represented on their own patch, but we’ve got incredible home support as well.

“We’re hoping our home fans this year can act as a 12th man for us.

“We love getting to experience playing at home and I’m sure the crowd will be right up for this one.”

However, where the men’s first team were successful last year, the second and third teams suffered defeat.

“I think we’re stronger across the board this year,” Sibley continued.

“All our men’s teams are champing at the bit to get the job done this year and we’re ready for the challenge.”

The Caesarean ladies had a more successful campaign last year, winning all three of their games in style and completing their second consecutive inter-insular clean sweep.

The first team secured a tight 3-2 victory, but it was a much closer encounter than had been seen in recent contests.

Head coach Simon Watling said: “We were very happy with the result, but we knew it wasn’t the performance we were looking for.

“Although we got over the line, we know that Guernsey are improving.

“They showed us last year that if we’re off our game, then they have the potential to make us pay.

“They’re extremely well coached and they have some good young players, just like us. They’ll be hungry for this one.”

The ladies in red will feel bolstered by the outstanding goalscoring form this season of star forward Jamey Henderson.

“She’s a little bit of class,” said Watling.

“She’s played at a top level and that experience has showed time and time again.

“She’s scored a lot of goals domestically this season and I’m confident she will pose a real threat on Saturday.

“But we have a great combination of youth and experience.

“Players like Grace Wetherall and Molly McKeon have improved our squad massively and offer something different.

“And of course we can’t forget the match winner from last year, Izzy Heelis.

“She’s an excellent young player and we know the Guernsey players will remember her two goals last time and be wary of the threat she brings.

“We know the areas we need to improve on and I think we’re in a really strong position.

“Hosting this year will be exciting and the crowd will be right behind us I’m sure.”

Matches are set to commence from 10am at St Michael’s and Les Quennevais, with the ladies firsts getting under way at 1.30pm and the men following at 3.30pm.

Jersey squads

Men’s First Team: Tom Millar (c), Piers Brandie, Joel Dudley, Jack Stevens, Jamie Watling, Will Hodgson, Sam Habin, Matt Boote, Peter Millar, Sam Watling, Tom Bolton, Sam Dunstan, Tiaan Kruger, Jamie Bolton, Tom Sibley. Player/Coach: Tom Sibley. Manager: Richard Gilpin

Men’s Second Team: Richard Gilpin (c), Tyler McGlinchey, Guy Harding, Bobby Minty, Will Hodgson, Nick Pearce, Mike James, Alex Bolton, Stuart Ramskill, Barney Aston, Nat Watkins, Pierre Sangan, Phil Cuming, Ben Heelis. Coach: Tom Sibley

Men’s Third Team: Harry Brooks (c), Jack Hutchinson, Dan Hodder, Patrick Filleul, Edo van Eijden, Neil Merritt, Robbie Mossop, Stephen Moore, Ed Hodgson, Eddie Rothwell, Jonny Heward, Charlie Reid, Joe Gower, Sydney Smith, Sascha Benson-Cooper

Ladies First Team: Natacha Kay (c), Laura Besnard, Kerry Rogers, Emma Bower, Emma Grange, Eve Taylor-Cox, Gigi Cooke, Grace Wetherall, Hannah Scriven, Izzy Heelis, Jamey Henderson, Chrissie Helmholt-Kneisel, Kelly Cutting, Sarah Jenkins, Trudy Dillon-Nugent, Lily Cotillard, Molly McKeon, Olivia Labesse. Coaches: Simon Watling & Gemma Minty

Ladies Second Team: Sarah Quenault (c), Lily Cotillard, Analise Merritt, Chloe Cutting, Grace Wetherall, Hayley Mann, Katie Doyle, Kiera Machin, Lottie James, Molly McKeon, Nicky Williams, Olivia Labesse, Zoe Higgins, Zoe Smart. Coach: Jamie Bolton

Ladies Third Team:Bridget Le Brocq (c), Amy Guthrie, Ava Le Cornu, Bella Woodruff, Charlie Maltby, Farrah Firby, Gemma Appleton, Isla Smith, Janoun Dunleavy, Katie Follain, Grace Fudge, Hannah Bolton, Lucy Kirby, Mabel Kelly, Maddie Edward, Poppy Hughes. Coach: Sarah Heelis

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