With the number of players at its disposal and the standard in which some of its teams now ply their trade, Newmarket Hockey Club has perhaps never been in such a healthy position.
But, with the 2017/18 season set to get under way later this month, the club have no plans to rest on their laurels, looking instead to build upon the success of recent years — despite numerous barriers.
Under the watchful eye of Adnan Zakir, who earned 169 international caps for Pakistan, the Ladies’ first team are preparing to play at their highest ever level following last term’s promotion up to the East Women’s League Division 1N.
The Men’s I also fall under Zakir’s remit, while Nick Thorpe, who has been a part of the club for the past seven years, remains an integral cog within the set-up.
The junior section is also thriving as the number of youngsters looking to take up the game at Newmarket Leisure Centre rises on a yearly basis.
The club wants more, though, and while the experienced Thorpe concedes there are a number of factors that make further progression tough, he believes Newmarket offers some unique selling points to potential new players.
“The club has grown a lot. I was asked to come across a few years ago to help with a couple of sessions and I have been here ever since,” he said.
“You can have a very big club that plays at a decent level but it is quite impersonal. We have a good mix here at Newmarket.
“It is a friendly club and they play at a reasonable level — it is not the greatest level, but it is also not an awful level.
“It is a lovely little club that makes everyone feel welcome. The thing is with bigger clubs, sometimes you can get lost, especially if you just want to play the sport for some fun.
He continued: “It is very hard to attract new players to the club. We are surrounded by popular sports and the likes of ladies’ football and ladies’ rugby are growing all of the time.
“Clubs try really hard and we are no different. Football, for example, is so cheap.
“If you have a bit of grass and a couple of jumpers, you can have a game of football. With hockey you need a stick, shinpads and a decent surface to play on.
“But it is a great game because it involves all of the body parts. It gets people thinking and Newmarket is a great place to enjoy it.”
One team that has been particularly successful of late is the Ladies’ I.
It was a 3-1 win over Long Sutton on April 4 that rubber-stamped their historic promotion.
They will now rub shoulders with some big clubs in the region, including the likes of Dereham, St Neots, Colchester and Harleston Magpies II, whom they faced at home on the opening day of the season on September 23 (12pm).
“The girls have done really well. It was not easy to get to where they are, but they have battled hard and their commitment levels have been brilliant. Everyone has put a lot of effort in,” added Thorpe.
“The men had their rise a couple of seasons ago and now it is the girls’ turn.
“It will be very hard for them because it is a big job, but they have some good players in the squad.”
n Anyone interested in finding out more about the club can do so by visiting the website on: http://www.newmarkethockeyclub.com