After 204 international caps, Wales Captain and GB international Leah Wilkinson has made the decision to retire from international hockey.
Leah is not only a legend on the hockey pitch but for the entirety of Welsh sport given her status as Wales’ most capped ever sportsperson, a well-deserved title which represents the commitment she has given to her teams.
Leah has featured for Wales in an impressive four Commonwealth games and countless European Championships. She took over the captaincy of her country in 2018 and alongside these accolades has continued to fulfil her commitments as a full-time history teacher.
15 years into her international career, Leah’s perseverance paid off as she made her debut for Great Britain on the 1st October 2019 and subsequently won a bronze medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Leah will continue to play domestic club hockey for the Women’s England Hockey League Premier Division for Surbiton HC.
Leah had the following to say on her career with Wales:
“It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to retire from international hockey. Having played for Wales for nearly two decades, I know that the time is right, and though I will miss representing Wales an immeasurable amount, I firmly believe that the squad is in a great place and will continue to move up the world rankings.” Reflecting on my time playing for Wales, I have endless memories, from travelling across Russia in a bus to playing in front of thousands of people in the Gold Coast. I have been so lucky; I have travelled the world, played in 9 Europeans and 4 Commonwealth Games, playing against some of the best teams and players in the world. I have been coached by some world class coaches and more important than anything, I have played alongside some incredible women. I would like to thank everyone who have been involved in my journey with Hockey Wales since 2004, I will forever be grateful. Thank you also to my family and friends who have supported me throughout my journey, it’s been a rollercoaster for us all! I will continue to support the team from a distance and wish them the very best. Thank you for everything.”
For the past four years Leah has also been a member of the Team Wales Athletes Commission and Head of Engagement Cathy Williams commented:
"Leah has been a respected and valued member of Team Wales, not only on the pitch but as a key member of the Athletes Commission during the Birmingham 2022 cycle – she has been reliable, engaging and passionate during her time on the Commission, really wanting to make a difference and give athletes a voice in decision making. A pleasure to work with and we’d like to thank her for all of her time dedicated to Team Wales, on and off the field of play."
Wales Women’s Head Coach, Kevin Johnson said:
"It is almost too difficult with words to be able to communicate the full impact and legacy of Leah’s contribution to Welsh hockey over such a sizeable time period.
Her longevity at the top level was certainly achieved as a result of the extremely high professional standards she set and met for herself, never letting herself be anything other than best prepared to show the consistent levels of performance that she did across the span of her International career.
Her game on the field was always an impressive mix of a highly competitive nature with physicality, bravery, a combative style with a will to win that meant she all too often ‘put her body on the line’ for the team, with painful consequences at times, alongside her extremely effective technical skill set which she could execute just as efficiently under pressure.
She weighed in with important goals regularly, again demonstrating her ability to deliver under pressure, with her quality no more evident than with her trademark penalty corner headside deflections which a number of International teams will now be pleased not to have to try and stop in the future!
Off the field she grew into an effective leader of the group, not only leading by example and as a role model to many with her playing but also with her willingness to share her life experiences and help support other members of the squad as they navigated their way through life and International Hockey.
I was delighted that it all came together for Leah in gaining selection to the Great Britain programme and the Tokyo Olympics and her Olympic medal will be an ongoing symbol of perseverance and never accepting second best for yourself and your aspirations. It will be this story and many others from Leah’s time which will be retold countlessly by coaches and players alike in years to come.
What a legacy, what a career it has been Leah and thank you personally as I have enjoyed working with you and for the memories you have helped shape and create along the way."
There are plans to celebrate the career of Leah and other recently retired players in Wales during the course of the upcoming international summer of match activity.