NICOLA WHITE is excitedly looking forward to the dawn of a new era for English hockey as the Hero Hockey World League semi final begins in South Africa this week.
It is a new-look England team as only 10 of the Olympic gold medal winning team from Rio in 2016 have made the squad.
Suddenly Nicola, 29, who began her playing days at Saddleworth Hockey Club, finds herself one of the most senior players in the squad preparing for its first tournament since the Olympics.
Nicola said: “It is always difficult transition after an Olympics and there has been a change of personnel and we have a younger squad.
“We have had positive practice matches against Spain, Ireland, Holland and Argentina, but this will be our first test and how we handle a tournament.”
As for being one of the elder statesmen, Nicola added: “I am very senior, too senior. In a positive way I take confidence on to the pitch and experience helps you handle pressure.
“As a senior player you have to step up. I push myself in training to show the young players what they need to be doing. And because of that I find I am constantly improving.
“I am always talking to the new players and driving them on, something I enjoy doing.”
In two recent Tests, England lost 5-1 to Argentina and drew 3-3 with Holland, but lost in a shootout to the team Great Britain beat in the Olympic final.
Nicola added: “The Argentina scoreline didn’t reflect the game. We played Argentina three times earlier in the week at Bisham Abbey in practice games and did well, but the public didn’t see them.
“We were sloppy and it was a difficult result to take, but we stepped up the next day against Holland with a performance we should have given against Argentina.”
Nicola has no qualms about deciding to carry on and aim for a third Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
She said: “It has been a challenge and I have had my fair share of sore muscles. I am happy to have made the decision to come back. It is a new start, and I am enjoying it.”
The World League semi final in Johannesburg sees England in a group with Germany, Poland, Ireland and Japan.
USA, India, Chile and South Africa are in the other pool and England need to reach the semi finals as the top four teams qualify for the World League final in New Zealand, in December.
Coach Danny Kerry said: “We go to this tournament to seek qualification for the World League finals in Auckland later in the year. This will be a great challenge with a tough pool to get through.
“We are looking forward to continuing our growth of the new squad as we build towards the World Cup in London next year.
“Our attacking half contains great pace and our defensive half a good range of distribution. We look forward to what the tournament holds.”
The tournament is being screened on BT and England’s fixtures are: 10 July: England v Poland (3pm); 12 July: England v Japan (3pm); 14 July: England v Germany (5pm); 16 July: England v Ireland (1pm); 18 July: Quarter-Finals; 20 July: Semi-Finals; 22 July: Final.