Hockey: Withdrawal by East is worry for future

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The Independent Online
EAST'S WITHDRAWAL from the women's under-21 regional tournament starting at Milton Keynes today may be seen as the thin end of the wedge as far as the possible ending of this competition although East president, Mrs Ann Cunningham, has stated that it is only for this season. The decision appears to have been taken on financial grounds and on their dislike for the time of the year the tournament is played.

England's Under-21 coach, Claire Harvie, who offered to organise the squad on hearing that they were pulling out, said: "It's a great shame for the East girls to miss this opportunity of playing before Peter [Nicholson, the head coach] and myself."

Even more of a shame is the absence of all but one of the girls in the England National Development squad, Joanne Duff, Loughborough Students and Midland's captain, being the exception.

Nevertheless, competition is likely to be fierce as Midlands defend their title. A strong squad, led by medical student Sally Wright from the Premier League Doncaster club, this afternoon start proceedings against the South with the North v West game following.

The South squad, largely selected from the Universities, could lack National League experience and Clifton's keeper Beth Storry could be busy.

Tomorrow's last game between North and Midlands could decide this season's trophy. In addition to Duff, North include Bradford's Sandeep Kaur impressed in last year's competition.

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