OLDHAM is proud of its sporting heritage and the performances of two local youngsters suggest the future is also in safe hands – quite literally.
Here, Correspondent editor Trevor Baxter and sports editor Tony Bugby find out more about girl power thanks to the achievements of Faye Rimmer, 11, and 16-year-old Natasha Watkins.
“Sport is not just for boys,” says Faye, a member of Oldham Hockey Club who has already taken her first steps along England Hockey’s Pathway programme.
“I think a lot of girls feel somewhat intimidated by boys and the way they play too so it puts them off,” adds the St Joseph’s School pupil.
“When I first started training, almost three years ago now, I never really thought that field hockey would have gripped me as much as it does now.
“It’s given me so much confidence and a real sense of strength. I want more girls to get involved.”
Faye is a goalkeeper and one of some repute after winning OHC’s U11s player of the year together with Scarlet Brooke and Megan Russell.
Mum Shonagh affectionately dubs her eldest daughter ‘the Tank’.
“She’s a slip of a girl really but when she gets all her gear on and puts on a green top, she reminded me of a tank,” laughs supportive Shonagh.
Faye, who leaves her junior school for St Cuthbert’s RC High School, Rochdale later this month, is also well prepared for the mental as well as physical knocks that come with being the last line of defence.
“Being a goalkeeper is a really tough job,” she admits. “You’re constantly battling against your demons.
“If your team loses a match or you might let a ball slip, you have to deal with that and pick yourself up again and again.
“I have learnt so much from the guys at Oldham Hockey Club and also by playing for my other county team at Greater Manchester as well.
“It’s given me so much confidence and a real sense of strength.”
Faye is certainly well schooled in hockey. She attends Academy sessions run by Penny Moorfield who guided the early career of Shaw’s own 2016 Olympic gold medallist Nicola White, and plays an hour a week at Newman College.
She has also represented Greater Manchester and trains every Thursday night for nearly two hours.
“Goalkeeping training is honestly the best thing that I’ve ever been involved,” adds Faye.
“Why not come along in September and learn how to play like a girl!”
Shonagh is certainly proud. “It is amazing how she has come on over the past 12 months,” she told the Correspondent.
“She is very understated and a very humble child but she doesn’t let get anything get to her.
“Faye has this attitude – it’s okay to have sportsmanship and it is about taking part. But it is also about winning.
“I hope as well that other young girls can be inspired by what Faye has achieved, inspired enough to take up goalkeeping in field hockey as well.”
Faye’s form teacher at St Joseph’s, Steve Hill, said: “She is a super young lady so motivated by her hockey.
“We had Nicola White visit us a couple of years ago and I think that inspired Faye.
“Who knows she might be the next Nicola White coming back to school to do assemblies with an Olympic gold medal of her own. We are very proud of her.”