Stockport’s Holly Hunt was the goalscoring hero as England outclassed Australia to win a first Commonwealth hockey gold.
It was a masterful performance gilded by first-half strikes from Hunt and Tess Howard that secured a 2-1 victory.
Before this golden afternoon England stood on the podium in all six Commonwealth tournaments but never on top step.
It was extra special for Hunt to do it on the same pitches where she learned her trade at the University of Birmingham.
“To be back out here playing in a Commonwealth final and getting a gold medal is surreal,” she said.
“I can’t believe what’s just happened, it’s amazing. To see all the hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes to make this event what it is, it’s incredible, and I’m so glad to be a part of it.”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
Hunt is one of six in England’s squad who studied in the city and spent every spare second with stick in hand under the watchful eye of the ‘Old Joe’ clock tower that looms over the university’s pitches.
She has never struck a ball on that surface sweeter than the opening goal on 22 minutes as she trapped Flora Peel’s ball brilliantly and cracked her shot past Aleisha Power.
Hunt said: “I didn’t know what to do. All I was thinking was ‘stop this ball and hit it as hard as I can’. Thankfully it went in and I just jumped on the spot.
“It fell quite nicely for me. It was really nice of Flora to open up the channel for me, it was really good.”
England doubled the lead four minutes later with Peel again playing provider for Howard to deftly deflect into the roof of the net.
The women will have been wary of the two-goal lead that their male counterparts let slip in their own semi-final against Australia.
But there was no visible sign of stress in the England ranks and they sought to build on the advantage with Anna Toman’s penalty corner slap smacking the inside of the right-hand post.
Maddie Hinch, a spectator for the first 45 minutes, was first called into action seconds into the fourth quarter when she kick-saved Jane Claxton’s close-range snapshot.
White-line fever began to creep in, but as always Hinch had the coolest head in the postcode, saving first at the near post and then smothering a well-worked Australian penalty corner.
Just like eight years ago Australia struck in the last minute as Rosie Malone swept home the loose ball from a corner, just the second goal England conceded in the entire tournament, but it was far too little, too late.
Hunt said: “There are girls in our squad who have been around for years and not even been in a final, let alone win a gold medal, so I almost feel I’ve cheated the system a bit.
“I’m grateful to be part of the squad and everything we have back at Bisham.”
On the crowd, she said: “The fact that whenever we did anything, there was a massive cheer from the crowd, that is just even more of a push for us to keep going and doing the same things. It was amazing.”
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