For more than 12 months now the England team that will represent lacrosse in our country has been training hard in the background. That’s 12 months of 6 hour Sunday sessions, mid-week competition and lifting, for two weeks of lacrosse.
In June last year when the England team was announced, there were some changes to the familiar old guard that had come to be the face of England lacrosse. Amongst the new names there’s a familiar core of international experience. Players like Humphreys, Russell, Patterson, Watson and Baxter have been to every major tournament in recent years – but now they’re joined with a wealth of young talent who have reinvigorated the side with a fresh energy.
There are a number of young players who have made the jump from junior international to senior. Ryan Hunns, Tom Bracegirdle and Will Baxter all feature in key roles across the side. This team also looks to be a success for Southern lacrosse, with three genuine London prospects featuring on the defensive end. Ollie Barrett, Ed Simkin-Byrne and Bill Fisher contribute athleticism in bucket loads; not to mention a proven ability to play the game.
The individuals on the team stack up well, but what this group will have more than any other before is a unity. Coach Tom Wenham’s decision to pick the squad so early has given the team time to get to know one another. On the group as a whole Wenham shared some insight into his thought process:
“The focus for us is the team, rather than specific individuals. We feel that we’re lucky with the amount of time we’re able to train together. This has included mid-week sessions throughout the year, 6 hour practices every other weekend and a number of tours and residential weekends. That’s helped the players get to know each other really well on and off the field and those bonds should really help during the Euros.”
The rest of the tournament looks more interesting than ever before. Israel join the fray this year, adding another blue division side – and Scotland’s recent promotion makes that a triple threat of top tier teams. Add into the equation the usual competition provided by the Dutch and Germans, and you have easily the most competitive European championships we’ve seen yet.
This growth is something that hasn’t escaped Coach Wenham and his troops: “It’s hugely exciting to see the expansion in lacrosse across Europe and it’s great to see the Euros being held in Hungary. The growth of the game benefits us all and we’re really looking forward to seeing some of the newer teams as well as renewing previous rivalries.”
Two teams that represent that combination well are the Germans and new-entrants, Israel. Israel have been taking world lacrosse by storm over the last 6 years, as our under 19s recently discovered and are a real force to be reckoned with.
The Germans have been the old enemy where European lacrosse is concerned, but this year they have unique insight behind British lines. Head Coach Matt Bagley has already won the European Championships once… with England.
Bagley will know the full scoop on a good portion of the England team, an advantage which England haven’t faced in recent years.
For England the time for preparation is finally at an end, and all that’s left to do is get down to business. When I asked Tom about the mood in the camp ahead of Hungary he responded simply: “We’re really excited. After all the training, fitness work and preparation everyone’s just desperate for the Championships to start.”
The tournament starts next week, and can be viewed for a small fee at: https://www.laxsportsnetwork.com/euros
You can also send any messages of encouragement to the team twitter handle @EnglandLacrosse
Article written by Tom Roche