Women's hockey talking points: Lily Owsley on her way to the top as Great Britain cling on

Rod Gilmour
Lily Owsley has impressed Great Britain coach Mark Hager - PA
Lily Owsley has impressed Great Britain coach Mark Hager - PA

Mark Hager, the Great Britain women's coach, believes that Lily Owsley is on her way to becoming one of the top players in world hockey.

Owsley, a former county standard 800 metre runner with Bristol & West, has showed her class in the inaugural FIH Pro League thanks to her effortless ball carrying skills for Great Britain.

Hager said: "Lily is an exciting player. She can be in the top four or five in the world and some of her 3D skills are world-class. A couple of times I've watched her eliminate and I've thought 'where did that come from?'"

Rio Olympian Owsley, 24, has been a constant threat for Great Britain this year. Although she has been the instigator of a raft of attacking breaks in their first two home games at Lee Valley, they have usually broken down in the last third, a trend Hager is keen to rectify with more team support.

Hager added: "She is a classy player and there is always lots to learn. For Lily it's about when to eliminate and when to pass. But I will always encourage players to err on the side of attacking."

Before Great Britain's European legs, Hager admitted that his side needed to win four of the next five games in a bid to reach the final of June's Pro League finals.

Heading into this weekend's crucial international double headers, Great Britain are on the back foot after only taking an extra bonus point against USA and having lost to China.

Hager said: "The girls are perhaps in two minds at the moment in terms of the structure of what they're used to and what I am trying to play. Now I am on the ground [full-time] hopefully we will become more structured."

 Great Britain players applauds fans following the Women's FIH Field Hockey Pro League match between Great Britain and China at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre  - Credit: Getty images
Great Britain are up against it Credit: Getty images

Hager was a feared forward during his playing career with the Kookaburras from the late 1980s. And you only have to speak to the Australian to understand that his hockey philosophy is "scoreboard pressure".

He added: "I like people who have a go. The more goals you score then that puts pressure on the opposition who have to come out with an attacking style which some teams might not like. 

"At the moment, we don't have that right. But if you look at our circle penetration we are doing okay, but we have to be more clinical at finishing off the opportunities."

GB meticulous for Tokyo heat

Great Britain women will travel to Tokyo in July to get a grip on how athletes will deal with the likely high temperatures at next year's Olympics.

Women's hockey play fewer tournaments in Asia than the men, while concerns have been cited after a record heat wave hit the Japanese capital last summer, with one area near Tokyo recording temperatures of 41.1C.

And Great Britain will leave nothing to chance as they turn to defending their Olympic title.

Sam Bradley, EIS Head of Performance Support for GB Hockey, said: “Delivering in the heat and humidity of Tokyo is an opportunity we are really looking forward to, and this has been a key focus for the EIS, BOA and indeed the UK high performance system for some time already. An often overlooked component of this is how different athletes respond in the heat."

Belief the key for Robertson

As a Scot, Sarah Robertson knows the iron will be needed to make the cut in a predominantly English-heavy squad for the Olympics. 

The 25-year-old has been a regular in the Pro League squads and she has praised her coaching mentor Janet Jack, a former international, for her rapid rise after being told she was good enough to make Scotland's Commonwealth Games team in 2014.

"I had grown up in a state school area, hockey then was dominated by the private schools and it was all about rugby and football for me," she told Telegraph Sport. "But Janet's belief was 'well, who cares?'"

There are only three Scots in Great Britain's 27-strong squad, all chasing an Olympic berth for their country for the first time since 2012.

And Robertson added: "Janet taught me some invaluable lessons; she told me I had the determination and the ability and that I should go out there and show it.

"Being a Scottish athlete in the GB programme, that's something I've had to keep with me. That's the attitude I've got and to keep believing in myself."

Women's fixtures

FIH Pro League

Saturday: Great Britain v Argentina, 1pm

Sunday: Great Britain v Belgium, 1pm

(Live, BT Sport)