Having been in the central programme for London 2012, Maddie Hinch knows all about international hockey. Now, with the retirement of Abigail Walker and Beth Storry it is the former Leicester goalkeeper’s chance to shine on the world stage. The Top of the D caught up with her to find out how life as the new No.1 is treating her.
The Top of the D: You’ve played the opening games of the Investec World League as first choice, have you been pleased with your performances so far?
Maddie Hinch: I’m really happy to be honest. For me this is my first real major tournament. I’ve been to tournaments before but always been number two so it’s a big step up for me. I’ll admit I was very nervous to start off with, but I feel like with each game I’m getting more comfortable and really settling in and starting to enjoy myself.
TTOTD: One of the main things to stand out for me is the number of corners you’ve saved, is that something you’ve been specifically working on?
MH: Yes. There are some of the best drag flickers in the world in this tournament, so we knew going into to competition that our defensive corners would play a big part. All the goalkeepers have worked really hard on corners prior to the tournament. I’m pleased it seems to be paying off.
TTOTD: What about the team overall, are you pleased with how it’s gone so far?
MH: We’re such a new group so we’re still developing and we didn’t really know how we’d do here. In a way that makes it more exciting. We’ve realised with each game we can do well and it’s set us up nicely for the rest of the tournament.
TTOTD: What do you think a good outcome would be for England in the Investec World League?
MH: We always set out goals prior to a tournament and we’ve said we want to qualify for the next stage of this competition and we want to qualify for the World Cup. We’ve made a good start so hopefully we can build some momentum and really show what we can do.
MH: It’s been different, definitely. It’s almost a mindset thing, when you’re number 2, you’re desperate to get out there and play whenever you can, but you don’t necessarily have that level of expectation. This year there has been some pressure and some expectation. It has been tough having that and it’s made me a little more nervous than before but you just have to relax and back your ability and trust that you’ve been picked for a reason.
TTOTD: What do you think your biggest strength is as a player?
MH: I’d like to think I am quite agile, which allows me to make multiple saves if it’s necessary. Ideally I’d clear it first time so I only have to make one save, but I’ve got the ability if needed to recover and make another.
TTOTD: So do you think that came across, say, against South Africa where you saved a Pietie Coetzee penalty corner and then made two more saves from Marsha Cox?
MH: I’m quite hard on myself so when I reviewed my performance afterwards I was annoyed I didn’t get the ball away to safety first up. Next time, that ball needs to go off the baseline, I don’t want to give anyone chances.
TTOTD: Who do you think has had the biggest influence on your career so far?
MH: I’d definitely say Steve Bayer who was the Great Britain goalkeeping coach; he’s unfortunately not working with the squad anymore. He’s known me from the very beginning and knows me inside out. He’s really helped with building my strengths and I have a lot to thank him for.
TTOTD: It’s quite a new squad, but have you developed any strong friendships, are there any people you spend more time with?
MH: We are quite a new squad but we’ve gelled quite nicely, there doesn’t seem to be a divide between previous and new players. That said I have my housemates, Unsy, (Laura Unsworth) Sam Quek and (Susannah) Townsend. Obviously we’re really close but everyone seems to be getting on brilliantly.
TTOTD: Is there anyone who seems to be the joker of the squad?
MH: Probably Sally Walton. She likes to think she’s hilarious, anyway.
TTOTD: Is there anyone in the squad you fear in training, anyone you don’t like shooting at you?
MH: It’s weird actually, Giselle (Ansley) plays at the back but when she pops up in the D she hits it like a train! She used to be a cricketer and it shows, she has a hell of a bat on her. Sometimes I have to tell her to go easy.
TTOTD: Who is the best player you’ve played with or against?
MH: I haven’t got a huge amount of caps so I haven’t got a lot of experience of playing against top players. I’m looking forward to playing against Argentina and getting a chance to play against Luciana Aymar as she’s incredible.
In terms of players I’ve already played, it’d have to be Maartje Paumen. She’s an exciting challenge and someone I aspire to be able to compete against and keep out on a regular basis.
The best player I’ve played with is really hard to answer. I’d have to say Crista Cullen. I was lucky enough to play with her at club level and she has such a presence and such ability. It’s a shame she’s retired but I feel fortunate to have played with her before she started the rest of her life.
TTOTD: What would you do if you weren’t a hockey player?
MH: I’ve always loved sport I played multiple sports up to 18 which is when I started to focus on hockey so if I wasn’t playing hockey I’d be playing something else. Maybe not to the same standard but hopefully still to a reasonable level. I don’t see myself as an academic, so maybe I wouldn’t have a job at all!
TTOTD: You worked under Danny Kerry for a long time, how has it been adjusting to working with Jason Lee?
MH: Jason’s incredibly different to Danny. Both are outstanding coaches but it’s quite exciting the new ideas and thoughts Jason’s brought to the set up. He likes fast attacking hockey, which I hope people are starting to see from us. It’s going well but we’re all still learning about each other.
TTOTD: What do you think of his sense of humour?
MH: It’s hard to get used to. I can never tell if he’s joking or not. It’s great to have someone who has some banter, though. With our squad you definitely need that.
TTOTD: Can you sum up for me why you love hockey?
MH: It’s the team side of it that I love. When you win a game and you get to celebrate it with your friends, it’s a great feeling. I love knowing that when we go to play, I’m alongside people I can trust and people I love to be around. We will always give everything for each other and you can’t beat that. Hockey’s great, but it’s so much better because of the team element.
TTOTD: One last question, I’m determined to get to the bottom of. In the Investec quick-fire questions, no one wants to room with Susannah Townsend. Why is that?
MH: I don’t think I should reveal that secret. She’s a funny girl, but I’ll leave it to her to tell you. It’s nothing personal, though. Honest!
Hinch continues to impress with her excellent performances in the Investec World League. At just 24 years of age, she looks like she has a long and distinguished international career ahead of her. Her loyalty to her teammates is a credit too. Despite not wishing to share a room with Susannah Townsend, her refusal to embarrass her friend to a nosy hockey writer is very admirable.
The Top of the D would like to thank Maddie Hinch for her time and patience in conducting this interview.