By Rob Cole
Welsh goalkeeper Rose Thomas has been handed an incredible opportunity to push her claims for selection for the Great Britain hockey team to defend their Olympic title in Tokyo in 2020.
England and GB’s Maddie Hinch, described as being safer than the Bank of England after her penalty heroics in Rio two years ago, has announced she is taking a break from international hockey.
Hinch made her international debut as a 19-year-old back in 2008 and has made a total of 133 appearances for England and GB since then.
Since 2012 she has played in fifteen consecutive major international hockey events, winning gold at the 2016 Olympic Games, the European Championships and picking up further medals at two Commonwealth Games.
Although she intends to return in time to push for selection for a third Olympic Games, she has handed her understudies a gilt-edged opportunity to bed into the side ahead of Tokyo. Among those candidates is Thomas.
The 26-year-old Holcombe keeper has already won three GB caps to add to her 50+ for Wales. Her international career began in 2011 at the age of 19 and she first represented Wales in the junior ranks at the age of 13.
Her heroics for Wales at the Commonwealth Games kept her stock high at GB level and she is currently one of two Welsh caps in the squad, along with Holcombe teammate Sarah Jones.
Her main rivals for the newly vacated No 1 spot will be Scottish international Nicky Cochrane, who has won four GB caps, and the English duo of Sabbie Heesh (2 caps) and Amy Tennant (uncapped).
An incredibly difficult decision, but one I am certain is in the best interest of me and the team right now. I 💯% intented to return in the future stronger than ever. A huge thank you to all, especially my teammates for the understanding & support!! https://t.co/d42LLmYKsl
— Maddie Hinch 🅼🅱🅴 (@MaddieHinch) September 17, 2018
“After a very intensive few years I feel the need to press the pause button on playing international hockey and take a break,” said Hinch, who is 30 next month.
“I plan to take this time to recharge both physically and mentally, work on my game technically with Stichtsche HC and return in the best possible position for my teammates, the programme and my country.
“Hockey is in an amazing place in this country, as highlighted by this summer’s world cup, and it has been such a whirlwind since gold in Rio.
“I will, of course, be following the team’s results closely and it will be very unusual for me watching from afar.
“I still very much have the goal of going to Tokyo 2020 with Team GB, if selected.”
GB Hockey performance director, Ed Barney, said he fully respects Hinch’s position and confirmed his department will be supporting her.
“Maddie believes her personal development is best served with a break from the international programme, and we will be in regular dialogue with her in the coming months,” said Barney.
“In the meantime this represents an excellent opportunity for our other goalkeepers to further develop their skill-sets, and I look forward to them grasping the chance with both hands.”