The UKPA today announced its squad to take on Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the quadrangular tournament in New South Wales next year and there are two names in there that most people might not have expected. The UKPA have chosen both Jason Webb and Beth Peaker to travel down under, at the expense of Lucy Shell and Hamish Michael who are both reserves. The remainder of the squad is the same as that which faced the Australians in the summer; the other men are Guy Robertson, Greg Sargeant and Marton Brookes and the other ladies are Sarah Simkin, Debbie Harris and Sophie Lodder.
For Jason Webb it has been a long wait to get in the UK side. For years he has been one of the best, if not the best, male player in the UK but as he was born in Australia he has had to wait until he had full UK citizenship in order to get in the team. He captained a Kent A grade side to victory at the 2007 National championships but has not really played a great deal in 2008, running out for Pennine a few times in the A grade and it is for this reason that his call up is unexpected. There is no denying his talent though and he should add a great deal to the UK side. It would seem likely he will play at either 1 or 3, though he can play any position to the very highest level and is a brilliant horseman to boot.
It does seem harsh, however, that his inclusion should lead to Hamish Michael being dropped. Hamish didn’t seem to do much wrong against the Australians in the summer, though he did not feature in that test series as much as he did at the 2007 World Cup, as UK coach Greg Gloyn constantly shuffled his male players around. Hamish is a very versatile player and can add something to each position and the UK may particularly miss him in the number 2 slot.
Beth Peaker’s inclusion is perhaps less of a shock, she comes into replace Lucy Shell, who again did not feature against the Australians a great deal in the summer. Beth brings a new skill set to UK ladies team and she is a very determined and committed player. She has played a great deal out in New Zealand and does not hold anything back on the pitch. She had a good season in the UK last summer and she proved her fitness when forced to double up and play in two sections for her Crusaders team at Nationals in August. Beth is normally seen at number 2 or number 1 and it is possible her inclusion is to take some of the pressure off Sophie Lodder, who was the UK’s solo female number 1 in the summer, due to Shelley King being unavailable for selection. Ideally the UK would probably want to have Shelley King back in the squad but with her still unavailable they will hope that Beth can replicate her aggression and hunger on the field.