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Thursday, June 14, 2012

NEM Hawks celebrate multiple trophies

NORTH East Manchester Hawks left the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace on Saturday with an impressive haul of eight trophies.

The Hawks club won both the boys and girls Under-18s cup finals to complete league and cup doubles.

But when the England Handball Association’s presentations were held on the court after the finals it was revealed that the club had also done the double in the Development League North (open age) after a countback in the women’s league with Manchester University and closest rivals Warrington Wolves failing to complete fixtures in the men’s.

Coach Donna Hankinson said: “When the boys lost the cup final last season we sat down as a club and set both Under 18 Cup and League as our targets.

“We increased the sessions to twice weekly and also entered the development league with the sole point being additional competition, I certainly never expected us to win everything. They have gone through the Under 18s competition undefeated and in the development league although we have had some indifferent performances - which is to be expected with young players learning their trade - we have still managed to beat older stringer and more experienced opposition.”

In the cup finals themselves, the girls were disappointed not to reproduce their league form as they struggled to find their stride against a determined Wirral outfit.

Hawks eventually won 16-11 but had it not been for some fine saves by goalkeeper Kara Hunte they would not have prevailed.

They improved after the break with Ruth Anderson scoring some particularly impressive goals in her five strikes.

The boys final was by contrast a thrilling encounter as Hawks beat Warrington Wolves 24-22.

Hawks’ captain Stefan Whaley gave his side a good start with two early goals and at one stage in the first half they led by seven with left-winger Tyrell Coley providing some excellent assists.

However, Warrington fought to stay in the match and pegged it back to 14-10 at the break with three late goals.

Sam Bedlow and James Higgins were the mainstay of the Hawks goal threat in the second period but it was opposition goalkeeper Alex Bradley who was the star of a pulsating finale.

The England U18 squad stopper pulled off a string of one-on-one saves to keep his team in the game and when Hawks were reduced to four outfield players through two-minute sin-bin offences in the closing stages they looked set to crumble.

However, a crucial stop by Hawks goalkeeper Marc Howard with less than a minute to play meant a relieved Hawks were able to run out the clock and the final whistle was the signal for celebrations aplenty.

Then to crown an amazing day for the two-year-old club, captain Ellie Whitehead was named EHA U18 player of the year and Donna Hankinson was named EHA coach of the year.

“I am shocked – I really expected Salford Coach Bill Baillie to receive the award this season,” said Hankinson.

“Knowing the award has been voted for by colleagues and players makes it really special. I have been involved in handball as a player and coach since I was 10 years old and I have never been prouder.

“This award is for the players that I’ve worked with and the club, they are a special bunch and I look forward to the seasons that lie ahead. For me personally it is an accolade for all mine and the players hard work and a reminder that if we are to continue improving then I have to continue to develop my coaching knowledge and experience, something I am more than determined to do.”

U18 Girls: Hawks 16, Wirral 11 ‹ Hawks scorers: Ruth Anderson (5), Beth Wilbraham (5), Ellie Whitehead (3), Eliza Morgan (1), Emily Maddison (1), Becky Barnes (1).

U18 Boys: Hawks 24, Warrington Wolves 22 ‹ Hawks scorers: Sam Bedlow (9), James Higgins (7), Steve Clarke (3), Stefan Whaley (3), Wes Hunt (1), Jamal Braithwaite (1).

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