Harleston Magpies Men's trio claim league titles
For Harleston Magpies Men’s II, the 2019/20 campaign was all about bouncing back.
The previous season had been a tough one for the team, who struggled for form – particularly away from home – and ended up being relegated to the East Men’s League Division 2N.
However, it was mission accomplished this time around as they finished up champions in a league that was cut short by one game due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For captain Jack Caswell-Dodd, it was a pleasing few months after the struggles of the previous term.
“We always want to be pushing for promotion, and especially this season because we had been relegated,” he said.
“We were also aware that we were in the same league as our third team, so we wanted to get out of there to ensure there was a gap between us – that looks better for the club.
“It was a good season. We played some good hockey and to bounce back at the first chance was great.”
Promotion, of course, means a return to Division 1 whenever hockey is allowed to get back under way.
This time around, though, Caswell-Dodd is confident his side will be more competitive.
“It is tougher obviously. You travel further distances and that has an impact on player availability,” he added.
“But now we have some good youngsters coming through and hopefully they can push on. We have also been able to create a good team spirit this season.
“About half of the team that were relegated remain, so the experiences of the last two seasons will hold them in good stead.”
Also upwardly mobile are the Men’s IV after they clinched the Division 4NE title.
Captain James Bensley did not anticipate a promotion push at the start of the season, but they ended up beating second-placed East Coast I by three points.
“I captained the team last year as well and we finished mid-table, so promotion or the title was not something we really thought about too much,” said Bensley.
“But we won the first game 6-0 and then got on a roll from there.
“After eight or nine games – us, East Coast and Bury were clear at the top, so it was just about making sure we kept pushing. It was a real team effort from all involved.”
As for the Men’s VI, their Division 6NE title-winning campaign – according to skipper Richard Alcock – was due to having a consistent batch of players to select from each week.
“In recent seasons we have not been able to pick a consistent team every week,” he said.
“Sometimes players were called up for other teams and other times they were just unavailable.
“But this season we have had some good youngsters come through the development set-up and we have had the same 14 players available each week – that makes such a difference.
“The youngsters also improved a lot as the season the went on.
“I am 40 now and a couple of years ago I was one of the youngest in the team. Now I am one of the oldest, which shows how much the set-up has changed.”
The team’s promotion has also set up an inter-club derby with the Men’s V in 2020/21.
“That will be really interesting,” added Alcock. “I am sure our players will cope at that level.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella