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Trio of league titles shows the strength in depth at Harleston Magpies

If the success of Harleston Magpies Ladies’ IV, V and VII teams in 2019/20 shows anything, it is the strength in depth that the club currently possesses.

The final round of fixtures may have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but all three sides have still been promoted as champions, and all three scored in excess of 100 goals.

In terms of the goal return, it was the fifth team who led the way, racking up a total of 151 from their 21 outings as they won Division One of the Empresa Norfolk Women’s Hockey League.

Harleston Magpies V (32800942)
Harleston Magpies V (32800942)

Captain Jose Tibbenham, who combined with Jodie Allison to score 71 of those goals, said: “We do not always do so well in the league because for our younger team members the jump up is a bit big.

“We knew this season, though, that we had a lot more strength in depth and so we were aiming to get promoted.

“We had a couple of slip-ups when we drew games, but overall it was a really good season.”

Harleston Magpies
Harleston Magpies

The next campaign in the Premier Division will represent another step up, but Tibbenham is confident the team will not struggle.

“In years gone by sides that get promoted to the Premier Division have gone straight back down,” she added.

“But last season the likes of Diss went up and they were not fighting for survival, they did well.

“The leagues are getting closer and I am hopeful we will be able to consolidate.”

Harleston Magpies Ladies IV (32739467)
Harleston Magpies Ladies IV (32739467)

The fourth team, meanwhile, will be moving on after clinching the Premier Division title by a margin of 20 points.

They won all 21 of their fixtures, scoring 104 goals in the process.

“We have been so lucky with this group of ladies as the team spirit throughout the season has been phenomenal,” said captain Treacle Griffin.

“Every week the squad faced a different challenge and always found a way to win. They are all really proud of their season.”

Harleston Magpies Ladies VII (32739519)
Harleston Magpies Ladies VII (32739519)

Head coach Jim Menzies added: “Our goal all season has been to play hockey with a proper shape, determination and application, backed up with so much hard work in training.

“With the players that we have, it has been possible to combine experience, raw pace and composure and to win every game both home and away is a remarkable achievement and I am super proud of them all.

“This was a genuine all-squad effort but it would be remiss of me not to mention top goalscorer and player of the season Sophie Govier Schaay, who was a menace all season, but I reiterate that everyone contributed so well.”

As for the seventh team, 15 wins from as many matches saw them win the top prize in Division Three.

08/02/2020, Weybread, UK. ..Hockey action from Harleston Magpies Ladies VII v Dereham 5..Photo by Mark Bullimore. (32856937)
08/02/2020, Weybread, UK. ..Hockey action from Harleston Magpies Ladies VII v Dereham 5..Photo by Mark Bullimore. (32856937)

The achievement was all the more impressive given that captain Jane Collins had a virtually new team at her disposal.

“We did not know what to expect this season. At the end of last year we had a lot of players so decided to create an eighth team as well,” she said.

“I took on the seventh team and we had a lot of players that had just turned 13 and came out of the development teams.

“Our ages ranged from 13 to over 60, but that gave us a good mixture of enthusiasm and experience.

“It was fantastic how well the team gelled together. We had a good spirit and nearly everyone was at training every week, which is unusual for a seventh team.”

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