Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hayley Guilder: A legend amongst legends

What do you say about Hayley? How do you get over how important she has been to the girls section at Letchworth? Her ability to lift the whole team just by being there - if Hayley was in the right mood (and most of the time she was) anything was always possible.

The memories are so many. Telling off her coach at Herts Youth Games because she disagreed with the tactics (that attitude started early - and she was probably right too!)... the multi-coloured shorts... the taste in music (make it LOUD!)... the team's only ever red card... three scores in (about) a minute in one sevens game... the toilet stops (no journey home was complete without one)... the vision... the tackles... the tries...

Whatever she is like to play with or against, one unarguable fact is that Hayley is without question an incredibly exciting player to watch. Hayley can sidestep with the best of them - but when that is not an option there are fewer players (especially of her size) more capable of simply crashing through the opposition line. Utterly fearless and incredibly strong it often takes about three players to stop her (as above!) - and even then her ability to break out of a tackle and continue to take the ball on is astonishing.  

Over 100 points in her first season (not bad for someone who played most of that year at prop!) - and well over 500 points in her Letchworth career - but there was more to Hayley than a try scoring machine who could rack up a hat-trick in a minute (against Wasps at the 2006 Herts Sevens). She is amazingly versatile for starters - in five years Hayley has played in every position, except that of hooker!

Her tackling could be pretty impressive too - never more so than against Kettering in the 2007 Herts Sevens. Defence troubled by a three on one overlap? No problem if the "one" is Hayley...

Three tackles in maybe five seconds and its overlap? What overlap?

All this makes Hayley's representative selections all the stranger. 

In 2005 Hayley was East Region's "player of the year", but a year later Hayley's main role at county seemed to be restricted to this (left).

Despite the then county coach's lack of faith in our star she was still selected for the HPAs - and then initially dropped from the regional squad the following season (an event that sparked a fair amount of controversy before the decision was changed!). Then once again she was selected for the HPAs! 

National coaches have always been aware her talent - narrowly missing out on the England U20 squad it was at their insistence she trialed and was selected for the senior regional squad only weeks after her 18th birthday.

But then there has always been more to Hayley than rugby. Angry Girl is also Party Girl committed to enjoying herself. And if that means tackling practice on a bouncy castle on the day before the regional finals then that is what has to be done and to heck with the consequences (a broken hand, in that case). And as for the late Saturday nights and playing with a hangover on a Sunday - isn't that what all real rugby players do anyway?

Letchworth will miss Hayley - and as Hayley's "chauffeur" for what must have been thousands of miles over the past five years I miss her as well - including the way she was always ready on time(!), the lost gumshields, the music, and the legendarily inconvenient toilet stops on the journeys home. At one awards evening I said that this was one player I'd happy pay to watch play, which I guess I did over the years! And I don't regret a penny of it. Stars like H are rare indeed.

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