Hockey: Royce takes on Olympic task

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JON ROYCE, England's Under-21 men's coach, is the surprise choice to lead Great Britain's women to the Sydney Olympics. In announcing the decision yesterday the Great Britain Board also announced that England's Australian coach, Barry Dancer, has been appointed as the men's coach. Both will return to their England roles after the Olympic campaign.

An excited Royce said yesterday: "Women's hockey is arguably the premier team sport for women so being coach to the Great Britain women is the equivalent to being the England football manager. A very important post. I am looking forward to harnessing the potential of some exciting talent in the British game.

"I see the girls as being particularly good in paying attention to detail but there is a need for considerable improvement in their physical condition."

With a qualifying tournament next March at Milton Keynes, time is not on Royce's side. "It's an ambition fulfilled but it's all going to be a bit hectic."

Two players likely to feature in Royce's plans for Sydney will be in opposition at Cannock tomorrow - Sutton Coldfield's Jane Sixsmith and Slough's Karen Brown.

Slough, along with leaders Ipswich, have already secured their place in the end-of-season play-offs but for Sutton - in the relegation zone - defeat could be disastrous. Clifton Scottish Life, Slough's opponents on Sunday in a rearranged game, have also qualified for the play-offs. One point for Hightown at home to Ipswich would complete the top four places.