Danson: Waving the England squad off to SA was weird
MY England team-mates are off to South Africa for training and Test matches and it feels really strange. I am at Bisham a lot training and see them regularly so it feels different not being part of it as it’s the first time in probably 16 years that I haven’t been away somewhere warm for hockey at this time of year – and I’ve really missed it.
I’m rejoining the squad in April so I’m currently working hard to stay fit and enjoying my club hockey at Clifton Robinsons.
The South Africa trip will be particularly special as some members of the squad will receive their first senior England cap.
I remember my debut as though it was yesterday – October 23, 2010 against Germany and I was the 16year-old starry-eyed kid who got the chance to play alongside all the players I’d admired, like Jane Smith, Mandy Nicholson and Tina Cullen. We even sang the national anthem, which was a goose-bump moment for me as we hadn’t done any of that at the junior levels. For the players receiving their first caps it will be a trip they will never forget.
It’s been funny being on the edge of things at the moment so I haven’t felt it appropriate to offer advice to any of the new girls – there are plenty of great players who were involved in the last Olympic cycle who can do that and many of them will already have established relationships from their days with the junior teams.
I will, though, be sending them good luck messages on the squad’s WhatsApp account. We always have one, mainly for logistical reasons, and I’ll be sending my first contribution and watching any of the games which are being streamed live.
It has been important for me to have a break and it has been the longest lay-off I’ve had since I made my debut.
It has been strange but really good in terms of my freshness, just getting myself out of a routine and allowing myself to do things I hadn’t had time to do or had neglected like doing some work, having a holiday or a weekend away, or seeing family.
I’m at the back end of my career and I want to be in a place where I can transition out of it while being able to give everything I’ve got for what remains of my playing days.
Places in the squad will be competitive and that is a really healthy environment. It’s always been that way and it will be no different when I return. We all compete day in day out for the good of the squad so the most competitive team is represented at tournaments.
People who don’t play hockey always ask how I can keep going like this for so long but the game is always changing and so does the role of the player within it.
For example, my role changed from Beijing to London, then again from London to Rio and I’m sure it will do so again in the build-up to Tokyo. You have to learn to play with different people, build up different relationships and adapt to a different style and that’s something that I love about the game.
I am also motivated by the thought of the home World Cup in 2018 and the Commonwealth Games on the Australian Gold Coast that year. I’m on the board for the Commonwealth Games and the stuff that goes on behind the scenes in organizing a multi-sport event is phenomenal and really interesting.
So I’m looking forward to rejoining the squad in April and I hope the way I behave and play will add something to the group. In the meantime, I’m hoping to play for Clifton Robinsons on Saturday after a scan on my hip, which I’m sure will be fine.
I won’t be playing for Clifton in the Investec Cup unless they are short of 16 players. I haven’t played so far therefore I have not earned my place in the next games. The cup used to have a European place up for grabs, so this may reflect why clubs give opportunities to younger players but I still believe it is a prestigious cup to play for.
Sometimes, despite having the right intentions things read not quite as we intend. I know in the past that has happened to me. The Valentine’s Day tweet about England breaking Dutch hearts may have been one of these moments.
We have a great commercial department at England Hockey and the tweet was rectified quickly. Sure, we have beaten the Dutch in two big games recently but they are world champions and World No 1 for a reason and we have the utmost respect for them. The Olympics have clearly had a big impact on hockey as the match is sold out and it’s going to be a cracking game.
I’m off to the Palace next week to receive my MBE, which is going to be very, very special.
My family are coming with me and they are very excited – it’s another thing that I would never have dreamed of happening all those years ago when I first started playing.
It was surreal seeing Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh on the front page of The Times this week picking up their honours.
They have done so much for our sport and to get that kind of attention was amazing, and well deserved.
One thing worried me though when I saw the picture. They looked stunning. They gave me some ideas, but I’m going to seriously have to step up in deciding what to wear!
It’s the first time in probably 16 years that I haven’t been somewhere warm in February – and I’ve missed it
Canterbury’s Cindy Botha (left) challenges with Slough’s Jane Smith PICTURE: PA
Slough’s Mandy Nicholson (right) gets away from a challenge by Chelmsford’s Hayley Heggie