Having impressed everyone with his debut performance for Great Britain in Australia and continued good form against the Black Sticks of New Zealand, Wales’ Rupert ‘Shippo’ Shipperley has been rewarded with a full-time contract with the GB squad.
The Welsh Hockey star achieved his first Senior Cap for Wales in 2014 against Spain. Since then, Shipperley has been a regular in the side making 70 appearances for his country, which has included such highlights as the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast and, most recently, the 2019 Men’s EuroHockey Nations Championship.
The 27-year-old began playing hockey when he was introduced to the game by his schoolteacher and current Wales Men’s Head Coach Zak Jones. But, with his sporting interests firmly focused on rugby throughout school, he did not take up the game seriously until he was at Cardiff University.
After two seasons with Whitchurch he went on to play for Cardiff & Met, followed by a move to Surbiton. Now, Shipperley plays in the English Men’s Hockey League Premier Division, for topflight club Hampstead & Westminster.
Wales Men’s Head Coach, Zak Jones, has been with Rupert from the start of his hockey journey and throughout his time as a regular with the National squad.
"I am absolutely delighted for Rupert as he has worked incredibly hard to get to this point. He is a very talented and diligent athlete who sets incredibly high standards for himself and the group.
“He is very humble; his enthusiasm and energy is infectious, and he has been an outstanding performer and leader in the Wales Senior Men's squad for some time.
“His work ethic is second to none, he is hugely committed and passionate, yet he balances this with a great sense of fun and enjoyment of playing the game but, perhaps more importantly, he is a fantastic person and a great role model.
“I was so pleased to see him performing well and scoring on his Great Britain debut out in Australia and I look forward to continuing to watch him perform at the highest level in both a Great Britain and Wales shirt in the future."
Shipperley scored on his GB debut against the Kookaburras and impressed to the extent that Danny Kerry and his coaching team have decided to bring him into the fold ahead of a crucial six months.
The Welsh international said: “Originally Danny said he’d speak to me when we got back from the tour so I knew there was a decision coming – whether it would be a good one or not I wasn’t sure. But I felt like I played well out in Australia and New Zealand, so I was fairly confident. I was relieved and happy when I got the call! “That was my trial. I felt like I trained and played well out there. It’s obviously one of those subjective decisions but luckily I was on the right side of it.
“I was a little bit nervous, it was a bit like getting my first cap for Wales. It reminded me of those emotions. Scoring on debut is always nice – I was absolutely shattered at the time though, hence the celebration where I just stood still!”
He joins GB at a time when there are four Welsh players in the squads, playing alongside fellow Wales and club team-mate Jacob Draper, and with Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson both regulars in the Women’s line-up.
“Hockey Wales is on the up, and the positive thing is there’s only more [players] coming through. There’s a lot of young talent there. I think this is only the start and there will be a lot more Welsh players breaking through.”
Rupert joined the GB squad prior to the recent Pro League matches in Australia and New Zealand and, since impressing selectors with his debut performances, the talented utility player, who can turn his hand to play upfront or midfield, has remained.
Over the coming months GB will face world class competition in the FIH Pro League taking on India, Argentina, Spain and Germany, followed by the biggest competition for any athlete, the Olympics in Tokyo, where they open their campaign against South Africa on the 25 July.
Speaking recently about his future ambition, the Welshman explained his thoughts on being considered for the Olympics,
“Whilst I am thinking about games that are just ahead of us, you can’t hide from the fact that the Olympics are just around the corner, so that has to be another goal.”
Now, with a GB full time contract firmly in his grasp, Shipperley can dare to dream that an Olympic appearance could become a reality.
Congratulations Rupert Shipperley from all at Hockey Wales.
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