On Saturday, the club hosted ‘Hockey Fest’, a national incentive by England Hockey to open the doors to new and existing players with a focus on the social side of the game. Magpies aimed to highlight the best aspects of hockey – the inclusivity of gender, age and ability.

Starting the day with ‘Minis Madness’, children in school years 2-8 took to the pitch either to pick up a stick for the first time or to take part in mini matches. The boundless energy and enthusiasm showed by the children, coaches and parents alike, set the tone for a fantastic celebration of hockey.

The majority of teams begin their league campaigns next weekend but the Ladies Fifths, which is made up of mostly of youngsters, travelled to Diss for their first competitive game. The 5-1 loss sounds like a one sided affair but the match was even in terms of chances. Going into half time at 1-1, play was end to end but lapses in concentration by Magpies enabled Diss to execute their chances and add 4 goals to their tally. Magpies kept fighting until the end, unable to find the finishing touch but encouraging performances from four new young players, in particular Honey Lamdin in midfield bodes well for the season ahead.

The Norfolk Premier Division also began on Saturday with Magpies Ladies Fourths hosting UEA 2s. Coming off the back of a tough season which saw the Fourths narrowly avoid relegation, a young team took to the field hoping to capitalise on the students lack of preparation. Coming from behind, the hosts went into half time with a 2-1 lead (goals from Alice Evans-Hendrick and Keira Wheeler).

UEA caught Magpies on the break and levelled the score, only to take the lead moments later. Despite numerous attacking short corners Magpies didn’t seize their chances in open play but Ellen Pope claimed a goal back via a confidently taken penalty stroke, ending 5-3 to UEA.

Inter club friendlies provided valuable match practice for many of the remaining Magpies teams. The newly promoted Ladies 2s used their game against the 3s to try out players in different positions and ascertain which aspects need attention before travelling to Canterbury on Saturday. Proving that they hadn’t lost their finishing touch over the summer, two goals each from Anouska Stott and Laura Tibbenham saw the 2s win 4-2 against the 3s who’s young players coped well with the pace and skill of the game.

The Men’s 4s faced an amalgamation of the 5/6s in a tightly fought game which was played in tremendous spirit and resulted in a win for the 4s in preparation for their league opener with Watton (11.30 at home) this weekend with Jack Largent making an impressive debut for the team. The Ladies Sixth and Seventh teams mixed their squads in a friendly game with a 1-1 result and strong performances all over the pitch.

Eager for yet more hockey, the Ladies then travelled to Taverham on Sunday to participate in a 7s tournament against local teams. Following the group stages, a win over Cambridge South set Magpies up for the Plate semi final against arch rivals Watton. In their best performance of the day, a sustained attack was unfortunately not converted and Watton took their chance with a fast counter attack, resulting in the only goal of the game. The Ladies 6s host Broadland at 11.30 on Saturday.

Following a competitive pre season run, the Men’s Firsts welcome Wapping to The Nest this weekend for their first competitive game of the 2018/19 season. Push back is at 1.30pm so hopefully the crowds will gather to offer their usual vocal support and check out Magpies’ new signings. The Ladies Firsts follow the game (3pm) in their last friendly before the National League commences the following week.