Hockey Masters World Cup Glory

In what has, undoubtedly, been the most memorable summer of international sport for a generation, Sqn Ldr Dave ‘Rosie’ Oatley, from HQ Air Command, spent the two weeks between the Olympics and Paralympics chasing his own sporting dream.

Oatley, now in his second season with the England Masters Over 40’s Hockey Team, was competing in the inaugural Hockey Masters World Cup Tournament at Canterbury Hockey Club in Kent.  This is the first time such a tournament has been given full FIH (Federation of International Hockey) approval.  For Oatley, the tournament was made even more special as he was also given the added privilege and responsibility of being the Vice Captain.

After a successful unbeaten defence of the Home Nations in Edinburgh earlier in the Summer, and having won the International Masters Hockey Tournament in Singapore last November, the team approached the competition justifiably confident, despite the teams in the World Cup being a tough prospect, with many of them having several players with full international and Olympic Games experience.  The teams were to play in two groups of 4.  England’s group consisted of old home nation rivals Wales, South Africa and the old foe Australia, who were out for revenge after losing to England in Singapore.

The first game, against Wales, could be a problem, as the team knew the England side well and would look to pack their defence, making it hard to score, then look to hit England on the break.  However, England had prepared well and they dispatched their Welsh opponents with 5 unanswered goals – the perfect start to the competition – with Oatley playing his part in the build up to two of the goals.

The next game was against South Africa, who were an unknown quantity, but, like all southern hemisphere teams, were fully-expected to be physical and fiercely competitive.  They did not let the tournament down on either count and, being physically bigger in every position on the park, started the game at a very high tempo, putting England under enormous pressure.  England responded well and their high-paced forward line tore the South African defence apart, scoring almost at will, finishing with a comfortable 6-1 score line.

With the other results in the group games going England’s way, they came to their last game, against Australia, knowing that they had already qualified for the semi-finals.  On what was the hottest day of the year, playing in 32 degrees, the old rivals went into battle with Australia scoring the first goal, but England fought their way back into the match, equalising just before half time.  During the second half, England played well, creating three chances  but these were not converted and Australia, encouraged by these misses, went on to win 5-1.

Four days off and then into the semi-finals with England, pitched against Germany, keen to make amends for the Australia defeat.  They played the game with a new-found intensity and ran the Germans ragged, creating chance after chance, only to see the Germans scramble defence to keep the score line goalless.  As with an England v Germany semi-final in the World Cup, it went to penalties.  Thankfully, unlike their footballing counterparts, the England men won 4-3, to play Australia, who had beaten Scotland 2-1 in their semi final, in the final.  The opportunity of winning a Gold Medal in a World Cup in their home nation was not lost on the players.  England were outstanding from the off and quickly took the lead. Australia soon equalised, but the England guys played at the top of their game, competing for every ball, out passing and playing the Australians all over the park.

With approximately 10 minutes left on the clock, England got the breakthrough with, arguably, the goal of the tournament, as the English inside left dived full length to deflect a smashed cross over the advancing goalkeeper into the Australian net… 3-1. England played out the remaining minutes to rapturous cheers from the crowd, securing a well-deserved victory and becoming the Over 40’s World Champions!

For Oatley, who has, once again, returned to the RAF Men’s 1st team this year, helping them regain the Inter-Service crown, this was, without doubt, the highlight of his hockey career, as he became a World Champion and scored in the World Cup final.  When asked, Sqn Ldr Oatley said that he could not have achieved such sporting success without the support of the RAF Hockey Association, the RAF Sports Board and RAF Sports Lottery, as well as a very understanding line management, for whom he will always be grateful. ν