Veterans aim to play on

A REMARKABLE record has been set by two Fakenham sportswomen who have each clocked up more than 40 years as active players for the Evergreens Ladies' Hockey Club.

A REMARKABLE record has been set by two Fakenham sportswomen who have each clocked up more than 40 years as active players for the Evergreens Ladies' Hockey Club.

And Trudi Moulton and Sue Murfit are not finished yet, for they hope to pick up their hockey sticks again when the new season opens in the autumn, writes Peter Bird.

They do not think of their four decades of turning out each winter Saturday as anything exceptional. It's not a record at which they aimed. It is something which just quietly crept up on them over the years and they have played for Evergreens for so long they have a little trouble remembering just how it all began.

“I think we both started at about the age of 15 and we are now well into our fifties,” said Trudi.

“I think it was in 1966 for me,” said Sue, ignoring the fact that both had been playing school hockey for some time before being “head-hunted” - which adds even more years to their active careers.

Both remember clearly that they were directed towards the Evergreens by Jinny Platt, their PE teacher at what was then Fakenham Secondary Modern School. They have been stalwarts of the club ever since, and this winter formed part of the defensive backbone of the club's second team.

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Yet, despite the passing years, both have also been called on several times this winter to play for the Evergreens highly successful first team - winners of the 2008 Martin & Acock Norfolk Premiership title - proving that they can still hold their own with the club's younger players.

That in itself has to be some sort of a record. Not only have the duo simply just played hockey in careers stretching over more than four decades, but they have played for a side that can mix it successfully with some of the best teams in Norfolk.

But surely some of the speed must have gone from their legs? Yes, they both agree, but as they play in defence they also quickly pointed out that they have to cover less ground than the forwards during the course of a match.

Another factor they see as helping them to extend their careers was when Trudi started the club's second team in the late Nineties. She and Sue, along with two other seniors, were the motivation behind the team that Trudi initially also captained.

“We had so many young players we needed some of our seniors to take on and run a second team which also meant playing for it,” said Sue. The blend of youth and experience helped the seconds quickly move up from Division Four to the second division where they finished mid-table this winter.

“Numbers were a little short and the majority of the second team players were too young to drive. Without us and our cars there would have been no second team and our careers might have been over,” said Trudi. That meant they had to continue pulling on their hockey boots each winter Saturday, home and away.

But perhaps the motivation that was most important to them was an ambition to continue playing until they could play in the same side as their daughters. That has been achieved with Sue's daughter, Lisa, now a regular member of the first team, and Nicola Moulton, who has stepped into her mother's shoes as captain of the second team.

Off the pitch they have each been fixture secretary. Sue has also had spells as secretary and treasurer and Trudi has run both the first and second teams for several seasons.

“What perhaps keeps us going is that we both enjoy the sport, the social side and the camaraderie,” said Trudi.

And just how firm is that resolve to dust off their hockey sticks again next year?

“I've said that I thought this year might be my last, but next year if fit enough I'll continue,” said Sue. Trudi was more positive. “We'll definitely give it a go.”

No one in the club is opening a book on them not toeing the Astro-turf line next autumn.