FORMER international hockey player Kirsty Durban has been the secret weapon in Thorpe Hall School’s hockey success this year.
After five years of medalling in the Southend borough competition, the school finally struck gold to become borough champions.
And it meant the upper juniors and the seniors team, who were borough runners-up qualified for the Essex finals at Chelmsford Hockey Club on March 7.
Lower school teacher Hayley Middleton brought in her team-mate Durban to share the coaching duties in a bid to win gold.
The Year 6 and 7 seniors team comprised William Shepherd, Oscar Ahlers-Diver, Mark Tomkins, Zachary Horton, Luke Donovan, Glenn Cowley, Adam Howitt, and Jonathan Albecq.
They were up against Southend High, Westcliff High, Eastwood Academy and St Thomas More.
Two wins, a draw and a defeat saw Thorpe Hall to runners-up spot and a place in the Essex finals.
Thorpe Hall’s Year 3 and 4 defeated Alleyn Court, Friars and Hamstel to set up a semi-final win against Heycroft.
Up until the final of the lower juniors competition, Thorpe Hall had not conceded a goal but their defences were finally breached in the later stages of the final by reigning champions St Michael’s to leave Thorpe Hall as runners-up.
The silver medal-winning team were: Charlie Hyde, Kai Van Roon Collins, Freddy Khan, Carter Robinson, Georgia Middleton, Mika Tonong, Lucy Redfern, Poppy Grant, Daniel Harvey, and Max Miles.
The final match saw the upper juniors team of Nathan Sands, Charlie Elmore, Tom Albecq, Owen Middleton, Kudzaishe Mubayi, Ryan Bladon, Austen Robinson, Kate Blakesley, Grace Gosling and Ava Hanney compete in the Years 5 and 6 tournament.
Wins over St Michael’s, Earls Hall and Fairways saw Thorpe Hall finish as group winners, where they faced Bournemouth Park in the semi-finals.
With no goals in normal time or golden goal extra time, Thorpe Hall won 4-1 on penalties to set up a final with Heycroft.
Heycroft had beaten defending champions Alleyn Court but two goals from Thorpe Hall saw them crowned borough champions and secure a county final place.
“An amazing achievement for such a small school and a week where quality hockey was demonstrated right across the whole school,” said a delighted Hayley Middleton.