Performance, Players

After his sensational hat trick against Brazil yesterday, we thought a catch up with recently returned Welsh international, Joe Naughalty was long overdue!

Having retired back in 2015 due to injury and struggling to cope with Epilepsy, Naughalty made his return to Wales around June last year, just shy of the FIH Hockey Series held in Croatia where he played in all games, helping Wales secure second place. Naughalty admits although he didn’t score during the Hockey Series, he was anxious to get back on that score sheet, which thankfully came early against Brazil yesterday!

“Once I had the first goal, it was just about relaxing and playing our game. As a team we have some fantastic attacking players, so you know there will always be chances. The second goal was a penalty corner and the third was a case of being in the right place at the right time thanks to some excellent play for Rhodri Furlong.”

Asking how it felt scoring a hat trick during the game yesterday, Naughalty told us:

“It was great to score again and some relief as it’s been such a long time since my last goal for Wales, but lots of pride to be back contributing to the team during this exciting time for us going forward into the summer.”

On the back of his highest scoring Season to date and having been named ‘League Player of the Season’ by England Hockey last year, Naughalty is feeling strong; having found a positive balance across his career as Director of Hockey at Lancing College, his life in general and his love of the game!

“Finding a job you enjoy as well as having the hunger to play at the highest level means it becomes easier to find that balance and put in the hard work. However also knowing when to take a step back and relax for an evening or couple of hours just to refresh means you don’t burn out.”

The year ahead plays host to two extremely important tournaments for Wales’ men’s side. First up is the FIH Hockey Series Finals, where the team will push for crucial World Ranking points followed by the livewire of European competitions, the 2019 Belfius EuroHockey Championship. A competition that’ll see Wales’ first appearance in the top tier since 1999 and their first time in the A division since the eight-team format was introduced.

Alongside his teammates, Naughalty who currently sits on 80 caps for Wales, has no plans to slow down, confirming his intent to keep working hard and do enough to secure his place in the Welsh line up during both competitions.

Fellow teammate and Wales Captain, Luke Hawker told us he’s excited to see what Joe can bring to the team and international stage:

“I think most people overlook that fact that Joe is one of the more experienced players within the squad, securing 80 caps before some time away from the program. We generally have a young squad which has its advantages but can bring with it a lack of depth and breadth in experience which is vital when competing and being successful at this level. The addition of another experienced senior player enhances the strength of the squad and enables us to better support the development of the exciting young talent entering the environment. I do not think we have seen the best of Joe as a player on the international stage yet, so I am excited to see what he can add to us in this department as well.”

When asked what he’s enjoyed most since his return to the squad, a humble Naughalty told us:

“The best part has just been being around the guys again. There is a great atmosphere in the squad and it’s a lot of fun to be part of the group. Hopefully, I can bring all my hard work to the international stage and help the squad. Goal scoring is great but results for the team is the ultimate goal.”

Thanks for the catch-up Joe, we wish you and the squad the best of luck during the remaining two games this week. Wales take on USA again tomorrow and Brazil on Saturday.
Full details https://tms.fih.ch/

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