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Harleston Magpies planning to play on into the summer months

Even if their league campaigns do not restart, Harleston Magpies members are set to still have plenty of opportunities to make up for their lack of recent pitch time.

The club’s committee are poised to extend the 2021/22 season into the summer for their 430 playing members with inter-club tournaments and extra junior coaching, ensuring players do not lose their hockey habits at The Nest.

Chair Fiona ‘Fudge’ Cadman said being within just five per cent of hockey clubs in the country to own their own playing facilities has made it possible to plan to take the unprecedented step.

Harleston Magpies chair Fiona 'Fudge' Cadman. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Harleston Magpies chair Fiona 'Fudge' Cadman. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“During the current lockdown we are doing the preparation that will enable us to provide hockey opportunities for our members beyond the end of the normal season,” she said.

“We will therefore be ready to get back on to the pitches at Weybread as soon as the easing of restrictions allows us to.

“There is certainly an appetite amongst our members to get back before next season and we believe that we can provide a range of activities for our members without the need for competitive matches against other clubs.”

Harleston Magpies chair Fiona 'Fudge' Cadman. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Harleston Magpies chair Fiona 'Fudge' Cadman. Picture: Mark Bullimore

With a large proportion in the junior bracket – of six to 18 years of age – she said giving them the chance to play hockey outside the traditional April-ending season is particularly important this year.

“We will aim to run sessions to provide regular physical activity, the chance to improve technical skills and to meet friends again,” said Cadman, whose Cobbald family have a long history with getting the club to be one of the biggest and high-standing in East Anglia.

“Equally important will be organising sessions for young people who have not played hockey before to introduce them to the game, an activity that our youth development officer has been unable to do during the past year.”

She added: “We are in a strong position to extend our activities as we own our own facilities and have a large network of skilled and experienced coaches within the club able to lead a variety of hockey opportunities.”

Magpies’ men’s and ladies’ first teams both play in England Hockey’s National Leagues, which have been suspended since the country entered the second lockdown in November.

They were required to submit a survey by January 19 to gauge what clubs’ feelings were about what to do about the season.

“They were given opportunity to withdraw without penalty if they wanted to, but our teams decided they would carry on and see what happens because we don’t know,” she said, having seen their indoor season in the traditional festive winter break cancelled.

“The East League that our men are in and some of our ladies and the Norfolk League that our lower ladies’ teams are in are all waiting to see how long this all goes on for and then they will make a decision, so we are a bit in limbo.”

But she knows the importance of not being a club that stands still and as well as making contingency plans to get people playing again, they are also pushing ahead with a vital project.

“We have been playing on our water-based pitch for 19 years and we were told it would reach the end of its useable life in around 15-20 years, so we really need to start thinking about getting it replaced,” she explained.

‘The Big Pitch Appeal’ was launched in December with the aim of raising funds to allow the carpet, which will cost around £300,000, to also be achieved through grants and loans where available, to be replaced.

The first big fund-raising event will be a virtual balloon race later this month while an online raffle and Pringle pot members’ spare change collection has already taken place.

For more details of what is going on and how to help, see the club’s website and social media accounts.

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