A view from the inside- Zach Wallace’s GB Journey
By Sabbie Heesh
“The first few months were an absolute whirlwind”
Great Britain hockey player Zach Wallace joined GB Hockey’s centralised program in 2018. Since then, Zach’s hockey career has accelerated, which resulted in him being nominated for the FIH Young Player of the year in 2019. Zach is one of our most loyal #teamritual players and has been with us for six years. We chatted with Zach’s about his meteoric rise to the top and his international hockey career to date.
The beginning of my GB career came quite unexpectedly. I was one week into my six-week trial period for the GB Men’s senior squad, when I had a call from one of the boys in the team congratulating me on being selected for the upcoming games against Belgium at Lee Valley. To be honest, I thought it was all just a massive joke at first, as I hadn’t heard anything myself. I soon had confirmation that I was in the squad. The only reason for the delay was because I wasn’t on the team email list; something that was thankfully sorted soon after.
From there, the first few months were an absolute whirlwind. GB had recently appointed a new coach, which brought about a complete change in the way we play. As a result, my career start was dominated by me trying to get my head around playing with guys who I hadn’t met before, in a system I wasn’t familiar with, all while trying to get selected for the 2018 World Cup in India—all just two months after my debut!
Luckily, I managed to get picked, and I had an amazing time in India. It was my first major tournament, and to play in front of thousands of passionate Indian hockey fans is a special feeling. This added to what was an incredible experience from start to finish, in which our young, newly brought together team exceeded all expectations, finishing fourth, with a memorable win against the reigning Olympic champions, Argentina, in the Quarter Final.
“This was a huge honour for me.”
Following the first few months of senior international hockey, I had the bug for it and couldn’t wait to get going again. Fortunately, 2019 brought the inaugural version of the FIH Pro League. As a young player, this was an incredible experience with trips to Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to start the year, leading to experiences I could only dream of—all while playing the game I love!
We managed to have a decent season overall, but annoyingly just missed out on the medal places, playing in a tight 3/4th play-off against Holland in front of their strong home Dutch support.
The 2019 summer was a very busy one for England Hockey, with two European Championships to play. First, there was the U21 Europeans, which turned out to be the highlight of my summer. All the boys put in unreal performances to reach the final, but we just fell short against a very good German team. Nonetheless, reaching the final in itself was something we were all very proud of. Very soon after, it was onto the Senior Europeans, where, after strong performances in the recent World Cup and Pro Leagues, medalling was a realistic target for us. This turned into quite a frustrating tournament; we started slow which resulted in an early elimination after the group stages.
Nevertheless, 2019 finished on a high with Olympic qualification secured for GB against Malaysia, followed by the news that I had been nominated for the FIH World Rising Star Award. This was a huge honour for me, being the first British player nominated since 2012, and was a nice way to end a busy but fun year.
2020 has unfortunately not reached the same heights, with the postponement of Tokyo 2020 being the most noteworthy occurrence. COVID-19 has led to a huge number of uncertainties and changes to peoples’ plans for the next year. On the flip side, it gives our young, talented GB side another year to develop into an even better team and show everyone what we can do in 2021!
Zach Wallace, 2020