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Havering hockey goalkeeper grabbed chance with both gloves

Gemma Shepherd in goal for Havering Gemma Shepherd in goal for Havering

Thursday, April 3, 2014
2:00 PM

After Gemma Shepherd’s first match for Havering Hockey Club, aged 20, the seconds’ goalkeeper was medically retired.

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Gemma Shepherd and Havering ladies' secondsGemma Shepherd and Havering ladies' seconds

And Gemma stepped into her pads. It was quite a learning curve.

“I never played in goal at school but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be,” said Gemma, now 30. “Although for my first game, two team mates had to help me get into my pads.

“I’ve found outfield players actually get injured more often than goalies – although I have been hit full in the face before and once I had a bruise which covered 50 per cent of my thigh.”

The team’s season finished at the end of last month and an up-and-down campaign saw the seconds finish with a 1-1 draw at Old De Ferrians.

It meant they finished sixth in Essex Division One after winning 10, drawing one and losing 11 while the ladies’ first team finished an excellent second in the Essex Premier League.

Former Hall Mead School pupil Gemma thinks the team have been hamstrung by disruption to the line-up.

She said: “It’s been a 50/50 season, very up and down. The nature of the league is that the teams fluctuate a lot.

“What team you can put out depends on a lot of different factors. People have other priorities, like university, holidays, family and work commitments.

“This season our oldest player was 48 and our youngest was 15.”

Gemma works full-time as a project manager in the financial industry, and hockey takes up much of her spare time. As well as playing for Havering, the Roneo Corner resident also coaches the under-10 and under-12 teams as well as the borough’s London Youth Games outfit.

“I try to train when I can but I travel during the week with work, although the weekends are almost entirely taken up with hockey – from September to June anyway. “We’re looking for hockey players to try out for the London Youth Games team, so contact Havering Active if you’re interested.

“I also umpire for the club and I’m a registered candidate for the Essex umpiring pool. It’s a lot of responsibility but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Despite her love for the game, the former Greenwich University student is worried for its future after Sport England announced grassroots funding would be slashed.

Hockey is one of a number of sports which will suffer from cutbacks, to the tune of £137,000.

Gemma said: “It’s much more expensive to play on astro than it is to play on grass. If you want to keep up the standard, you have got to put the money in.”

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