Local sport was saddened in September 2016 by the loss of Southampton hockey stalwart Roger Merry, long term ladies team coach and one of the area’s most influential and dedicated figures in the juniors’ game.
Roger, who died recently after a brave battle against a long illness, had been involved with Old Tauntonians’ and Southampton hockey throughout his adult life, putting a massive and amazing amount of time and energy into the game he loved. He would have been 70.
He was Director of Coaching at Southampton and was one half of a wonderful hockey loving partnership with his wife Sue, the club’s ladies captain and still a prolific goal-scoring member of the women’s team which won the Hampshire League championship last season.
Roger was never happier than with a stick in his hand and his infectious enthusiasm for the game made him one of the region’s best known coaches.
A right-half in his playing days initially with Adastrians and later with OTs, he became a qualified hockey coach in the mid-1980s and spent the next 30 years or more promoting his passion for the game into local schools and the community.
Soon after his playing career ended through injury, Roger (in 1987) set up the Southampton juniors club.
A champion of youth hockey, he dedicated his life to coaching juniors and adults, besides taking on responsibility for boys County teams in the early nineties and later becoming Chair of Hampshire Hockey Schools and Youth until 2000.
He ran the Southampton ‘minis’ tournament at the Sports Centre for over 25 years – a hugely popular regional event that will perpetuate and encapsulate his name on future occasions.
Among the youngsters Roger Merry inspired was Great Britain Olympian Alex Danson, who played much of her formative junior hockey locally.
“Only recently Alex brought her Gold medal from the Rio Olympics to show Roger,” said Sue.
“Alex told him how his enthusiasm for the game had inspired her as a youngster.
“It was such a wonderful and fitting touch.”
In a moving tribute, Southampton chairman and long term club colleague Paul Meacher reflected: “Roger had a fantastic ability to adapt his teaching style and complexity to match the skill level of each individual player, even within a group of 10-15.
“There was always a ‘buzz’ about his junior training sessions, an activity that swept children up and pulled them in. At the centre of all this was Roger.
“Quite how many children received the benefit of Roger’s tutelage is difficult to estimate, but it must run to many hundreds if not thousands.”
“From a six year old picking up a stick for the first time, to a ladies team who were playing National League hockey for a time, these were all within his compass.
“The coaching of juniors on a Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, the training of adults on a Tuesday and Thursday, managing the Ladies 1’s on a Saturday: these were massive time commitments in themselves - but were just the tip of the iceberg.
“Roger would always be looking for ways to raise money or get equipment donated to the club.
“He promoted the club within the local schools and community, organised the ladies summer league hockey and represented the club at a multitude of county events and at committee level.
“Where Roger came into his own was watching a team during a match. I could only marvel at his ability to read the whole game and to make minor tweaks and adjustments to either improve the effectiveness of his side or to restrict the opportunities of the opponents.
“Where most coaches were drawn and focussed into one area, Roger had the whole game replaying in his head in real time, truly amazing to observe and something that could only be understood by spending time at his side.”
Roger Merry’s involvement in hockey stretched beyond Southampton, whose ladies team he coached from 2003/4 into the Women’s National League.
He coached numerous South and later England Masters sides, of which wife Sue was a prominent member, enjoying triple successes in three recent and separate women’s World Cup tournaments.
Roger Merry was one of a kind, someone who will be missed in so many ways.
In Southampton Hockey Club and beyond he has left a legacy that will endure.
With their influx of new players, primarily from Fareham, Winchester are among the strongly fancied to press strongly for promotion in South Premier League Division 2 this season.
But their final dress rehearsal prior to Saturday’s opener at West Hampstead didn’t go to plan as visiting Wimborne Wayfarers beat them 2-1 at Kings’.
Winchester have former Great Britain Olympian Rob Moore, central defender Craig Sims and striker Ben Hibberd in a player/coach role.
But it was former England Under-16 goalkeeper Caelen Dillon – who has replaced Nottingham University bound Rory McCallum between the posts – who was quickly pressed into action with several fine saves.
Winchester had their moments with Kieran Malloy, Kent Langridge and Hibberd all going close, but Wimborne, ever dangerous, went ahead through the first of two Todd Clark strikes.
Clark, top goal-scorer in Regional 1 hockey last term, doubled Wimborne’s lead before Hibberd fired Winchester’s solo reply with a penalty stroke.
Winchester forced a spate of late short corners, but were unable to level the scores.
Neighbours Trojans begin their South Premier League 2 programme against newly promoted Bournemouth at Stoneham Lane, 1.30.
In total contrast to last season when their National League status hung in the balance until the final match, Trojans Ladies are off to a Women’s Western Conference flier.
Their 3-0 win over Oxford Hawks, coming on the back of an opening day 3-2 victory over Isca University in Exeter, has them sharing top spot in the log alongside Olton & West Warwicks and Stourport, the other two sides who have won their opening games.
The evergreen Sally Gibson fired Trojans ahead four minutes before half-time – a lean which American import Allison Evans doubled early in he second period.
Trojans, who chase a third straight win at Gloucester City on Saturday, wrapped up the points with an Emma Teague short corner conversion.
Honours were shared in the South Women’s League Division 3B city derby with Trojans II and Southampton drawing 3-3 at Stoneham Lane.
Trojans seized the initiative with an early goal which Sue Merry cancelled out after a right-wing move between Emma White & Nat Romain.
As the game swung back and forth, teenager Ellie Streather and Lou Hopkins gave newly promoted Southampton a 3-1 lead, which Trojans trimmed just before the break.
Trojans levelled to make it 3-3, but Southampton might have won it in the closing stages as Streather was denied in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper and Artelle Brooks fizzed a shot inches over the bar.
Fareham Ladies let slip a 2-0 lead in the closing eight minutes and had to be content with a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw against South Women’s League rivals Teddington.
They appeared set to add to their opening 4-0 win over Lewes when goals either side of half-time by Vicky Field and Laura Farrell gave them a 2-0 lead – but the Middlesex side staged a late comeback to salvage a draw with a last gasp equaliser, writes Mike Vimpany.
“It was disappointing to throw away a two-goal lead,” reflected Fareham coach Steve Lemon.
“But, in all honesty, we should have been out of sight by half-time.
“It’s obviously going to take a while for our new and previous players to gel, but we are creating plenty of goal-scoring opportunities, so its all very positive.”
Fareham went close three times before Field rounded Evelyn Wood in the Teddington goal to give the visitors a deserved half-time advantage.
Fareham doubled their advantage midway through the second period when Farrell deflected home a Hannah Nicholls cross, but eight minutes from time Teddington launched their fight-back through Sara Walker.
With the umpires checking their watches, Teddington won possession in centre-field, drove into the D and Cath Cherrington tapped in a simple equaliser.
Fareham’s disappointment at conceding the lead will have been cushioned as none of the 12 Division 3B teams has emerged from the opening two weeks of the season with a 100 per cent record intact.
Fareham are bracing themselves for a potential battle for National League survival after suffering a second consecutive Western Conference defeat.
Team Bath Buccaneers, runners-up to perpetual champions Cardiff & Met last season, beat them 4-0 at Henry Cort, where two goals inside three second half minutes decided the outcome.
The result has left Fareham propping up the table, with only one goal scored against ten conceded – and facing a crucial visit from Chichester on Sunday afternoon, 1.30.
Still bruised from their 6-1 mauling at newly promoted Old Georgians, Fareham made an encouraging start, but fell behind in the 16th minute to an open play goal by Oli Woodcock.
Team Bath bossed the remainder of the first half, enjoying territorial pressure but failing to break down a resolute Fareham defence.
Fareham’s best period came in the opening phase of the second half when they forced four unconverted penalty corners alongside squandering the chance of equalising when Alex Boxall set up the Davey brothers, who were unable to make it count.
Predictably, Fareham counted the cost as Matthew Boote and Oli Woodcock scored twice in three minutes before John Verity bagged a late fourth goal.
Disappointed Fareham coach Ben Barnes reflected: “It isn’t panic button time yet and we have played two good sides in Old Georgians and Team Bath, who are always top two.
“We improved on last week’s performance (at Weybridge), but gave away far too much possession again at key times and were made to pay for it.
“We were beaten by a tougher, stronger side and we did not match the pace of their game. “However, we have a young side and I am sure we will learn form this.”
Fareham ladies buried their Lewes counterparts with four goals in as many minutes just before half-time in their opening South Women’s League Division 3B contest at Henry Cort.
Amanda Hilsdon began the goal rush with a reverse stick shot, which Katt Mayer improved upon by converting a penalty corner. Bex Close scored twice in quick succession to seal a 4-0 win for Fareham, who are looking for promotion after last season’s third place finish. Trojans lost 4-2 to Eastbourne.
Centre back Jill Toombs converted two penalty corners inside five first half minutes to set up a 3-2 National League Western Conference win for Trojans ladies over their Isca University counterparts in Exeter.
But they had to come from behind before securing their first win over the West Country students – Megan Crowson giving Isca a second minute lead from a short corner.
Trojans gradually gained the upper hand and, after creating several chances, drew level when youngster Maddy Lambrou celebrated her debut by winning a penalty corner, which Toombs tucked away.
The Stoneham girls repeated the dose two minutes later when Megan Struthers won a short corner which Toombs buried again to give Trojans a 2-1 interval lead.
Trojans repelled early second half Isca pressure before a counter attack down the right flank led to a third goal.
Cat Horn set up the goal which had an ‘old and young’ touch about it – the evergreen Sally Gibson playing the ball across the goal for 15-year old Lambrou to score.
The Romsey schoolgirl is among Trojans’ youngest National League goalscorers behind Yvie Lock and Rio
Olympic gold medal winner Alex Danson, who has joined Bristol club Clifton Robinsons.
Sophie Jefferson clawed a second goal back for Isca, but Trojans played out the last 23 minutes to secure the victory
Former Great Britain Olympian James Tindall stunned Fareham with a hat-trick inside the first eight minutes of their National Hockey League Western Conference opener.
He ended up with a personal four-goal tally which pointed newly promoted Old Georgians to a resounding 6-1 win.
Ironically, a changed Fareham side from last season – Ben Hibberd and Rob Moore have joined Winchester, and Ed Carson has moved to Reading, where he scored on his National League debut – snatched a surprise third minute lead at Weybridge.
Danny Rawlins picked up an Ariel ball from Jamie Young and drew the OGs goalkeeper before crossing for David Roach to tap Fareham in front, writes Mike Vimpany.
But within five minutes Fareham were turn apart as Tindall, who played in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and scored in the 2012 men’s semi-final, scored a hat-trick.
It got even worse for Fareham as Liam Doidge converted a 24th minute penalty corner and Elliott Messon made it 5-1 as last season’s runaway South Premier League champions threatened a rout.
Although in shock, the young Fareham team regrouped at half time and restricted Old Georgians to a fourth Tindall goal five minutes from time.
Fareham coach Ben Barnes reflected: “We have a young and inexperienced side and it showed in the first half when we gave far too much possession away and paid the penalty.
“We have to learn from this. I was pleased, with some hope, we improved in the second half, but by then the damage was done.”
Fareham’s face Team Bath Buccaneers visit Henry Cort on Saturday, 1.30, the students having lost their opener 3-2 to Cardiff & Met.
“We will need to learn the lessons from the OGs defeat to give ourselves a chance today quickly to give ourselves a chance next weekend.’
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