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Sport
Local hockey club continues to grown amid challenges

Somerset West Hockey Club (SWHC) has a rich and very interesting history. Now one of the most prolific sports clubs in the Helderberg, it started from humble beginnings.

Begun loosely in 1974, the club’s founding fathers included Jerry Garret, Mervyn Traut, Terence “Terry” McIntyre and Albert Dunford. Twenty members later, SWHC was established. Although these 20 “players” had no previous hockey experience, it did not stop them from taking to the field.

The club’s very first elected executive committee comprised Traut (chairperson), Garrett (secretary), Mick Bourquin (treasurer), Johan Strydom (club captain), McIntyre (first team captain) and Dennis Johnson.

The rise of the club, despite not having a home astro field, has seen them grow the number of both men’s and women’s teams.

The first friendlies were played in 1974 and the club’s only team was admitted to the fourth league the following year. The first team to play in the league comprised the captain, McIntyre, Garrett, Morris Mehenick, Strydom, Neels van Niekerk, Morgan O’Kennedy, Rod Garrett, Ian Woodall, Peter McIntyre, Traut and Conrad Meyer. Van Niekerk was the first recipient of the Player of the Year award, following a successful debut season as a hockey club, whacking in 78 goals during the first season.

The SWHC has produced some top hockey players, but the club’s focus has always been firmly grounded in creating an environment suited for the entire family.

The passionate current members have embodied the ethos that the club was founded on, said club spokesperson Jacques Grobler.

The clubhouse is currently situated at Radloff Park, but plans have been put in motion to accrue an astro field to call their own. But like with most amateur and semi-professional clubs, the lack of corporate sponsorships often halts growth and, subsequently, talent is lost to the more alluring and affluent hockey clubs.

Remarkably, Traut served as the club’s chairperson for 17 years until Pete Humphreys took over from him in 1991. Ahead of the 1988 season, the first women’s team was founded.

In 1992, the women’s masters’ team entered the league with Peter Reck taking over from Humphreys as chairperson. Later that year, Western Province men’s and women’s hockey unions formed one union with Derek Wright as the president and Merle Sterley as the deputy president

The club currently boasts six senior men and seven women’s teams, including a men’s and women’s masters’ team. Thriving in a region laden with top rugby and soccer clubs has been a tough challenge for a sport such as hockey.

Rugby and soccer have seasons that run concurrently, making it very difficult for hockey clubs to gain traction. Nevertheless, the SWHC remains confident this will change in future.

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