The Euro Hockey League KO16 competition may not have gone according to plan for the three English sides as Reading, Beeston and Surbiton all crashed out on the same day in their first game of the week. Despite this, there is still some English interest in the competition as we approach tomorrow’s final: Former England U21 star Richie Dawson-Smith will line up for THC Harvestehuder against MHC Oranje Zwart.
Dawson-Smith made the move to the Bundesliga back in August. Having missed out on selection for the Great Britain central programme, the former Loughborough Students and Bowdon player decided to sink his teeth into a new challenge. His destination was Harvestehuder where, under the watchful eye of coach Christoph Bechmann he lines up alongside some top class players, including current FIH World Player of the Year Tobias Hauke.
Harvestehuder have enjoyed a fine season and sit second in the Bundesliga going into the last round of games. With the German finals to come in May there is a chance they could already be European Champions going into their domestic title deciders.
Speaking in the immediate aftermath of his team’s dramatic semi-final win over Racing Club de Bruxelles, Dawson-Smith remarkably kept his feet on the ground and offered a calm, honest assessment of the game:
“It was a pretty nervy performance from us. We conceded early which didn’t help but we were always confident we’d score. It took a bit longer than we’d expected but it came eventually. When Tobias scored it was getting to the stage where, if we hadn’t got a goal soon then it would have been panic stations. When it went in the momentum shifted and it gave us confidence to keep going and get the win.”
The reality of the situation had yet to really sink in, but when asked about his status as England’s sole hope left in the EHL the former Loughborough player was understandably pleased to be carrying the chances of his home nation:
“Obviously I would have loved to have seen an English side progress during the knock out rounds but I’m really proud to be the only English representative left in the competition. Going abroad and playing with these players since August has been great for me and I’ve enjoyed every minute. I’ve worked really hard just to get a place in the team and since we qualified for the competition, this was our goal. To get to the final shows that hard work has paid off.”
Having missed selection for the Central Programme it would have been easy for Dawson-Smith to accept his lot and, as so many have done before him, carve out a career as “just” a very good national league player in the domestic game. Instead, he joined Stephan Platz, a former teammate at Bowdon, now Bechmann’s assistant, in Germany and has been rewarded by reaching the final of European Hockey’s top competition.
“I knew the club would be in the EHL. It’s something I’ve watched for years and always wanted to play in, so having the chance to even compete has been incredible. As the year’s gone on we realised we have a good chance to win it, so to be able have the opportunity to prove that we can be the best in Europe is fantastic.” he said. “The final will be tough, no question. But you have to beat the best teams to win it. Both sides have got stronger as the competition has gone on so we know we’re in for a hard game. I’m looking forward to it, though.”
There is still plenty of time for Dawson-Smith to force his way back into the international reckoning. He turns 24 in October meaning his best years are still ahead of him. With a full season’s experience in one of the toughest leagues around he will be better equipped for the challenges of international hockey, should that chance arise. If he does join up with the England squad he may be able to show them what an EHL winners’ medal looks like. Wouldn’t that be something?
The Top of the D would like to thank Richie Dawson-Smith for his time and patience post match in giving an interview. I’d also like to wish him the best of luck in the final.