Playing a home game takes on a whole new meaning for Sydney University Hockey Club (SUHC), writes Laura Hanlon.

“All I want – all I really want – is to play just one home game for Sydney University.”

These heart-felt words were spoken by SUHC stalwart, Brett Radcliffe back in 2009, echoing the sentiment of so many of his fellow players and now that dream has finally become a reality. No need to be careful what you wish for when you receive everything and more that you had hoped. Indeed that was the outcome when Club legends, Radcliffe (700 games) and Mick Irby (800 games) were given the honour of being the Club’s first players to step foot on the newly completed home turf at the University of Sydney, Cumberland Campus on April 11, 2017.

The brand new artificial turf is named The Bruce Pryor Hockey Field in recognition of his colossal 61 years of contribution to the Club. Pryor played at the Hockey Club from 1956 to 1972 and gained a degree from The University of Sydney in Architecture in 1961, followed by a Masters of Architecture in 1963. Pryor played in five intervarsity competitions, winning the Syme Cup twice. Awarded a University of Sydney Blue in 1959, Pryor has volunteered many years to the Club serving in a number of capacities including Selector, Secretary, President and Club Patron. In accepting this honour, Pryor wished to emphasise that the fundraising for the turf was definitely a “team game.” In a family affair, Pryor’s wife Jenny has also been a valued and long-time supporter of the Club.

SUHC is recognised as NSW’s oldest hockey club and can trace its proud history back to 1906. The Club through the ‘Home of Hockey Appeal,’ as part of the University of Sydney Sports Foundation, has been fundraising for many years to reach the estimated first stage cost of $4.1 million.The Bruce Pryor Hockey Field is designed as Stage 1 of an international standard hockey complex, with plans for a second field when planning permission – and funds – allow.

SUHC fields numerous teams each week in the Juniors, Masters, Men’s and Women’s competitions. The mid-1990s saw new rules requiring hockey to be played on synthetic pitches forcing SUHC to rent grounds around Sydney for the next 25 years. It is difficult to put into words what it means for the Club to at last have its own state-of-the-art home base. However, one palpable indication of the enthusiasm generated was witnessed when SUHC played its first ever competitive games at the new field on Saturday 22 April, 2017. A large and excited crowd was on hand to soak up the atmosphere, catch up with old friends and to simply touch the new turf. Someone close to the project for many years even shed a few tears, such was the emotion of finally having somewhere to call “home.”

A remarkable aspect of this story is the tremendous generosity shown by supporters of the Hockey Club in getting behind the fundraising effort. Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF), Executive Director, Rob Smithies paid tribute to this philanthropy.

“SUSF has received one of its largest ever responses to fundraising from the Sydney University Hockey Club towards a new, artificial hockey turf field to be located at the Cumberlandcampus. This $1.75 million pledge (in total) is the catalyst behind The University committing to building a new turf for Men’s and Women’s Hockey at the Cumberland campus as part of an overall masterplan for sport at the site.”

The new facility, apart from the synthetic turf, includes goals, lighting for night-time use, fencing, dugouts, scoreboard and landscaping. Recently, in acknowledging the many donors to the new ground Smithies wished to personally thank Tim Dolan, The University’s Vice-Principal (Advancement) for all his support and assistance to the Project, along with Anne Simmons, Rowan Johnston, Brian Fitzpatrick, Ant McInnes, all of the donors, and of course, Bruce and Jenny Prior.

The Bruce Pryor Hockey Field will have its official grand opening later in 2017. This is a terrific milestone for one of SUSF’s finest clubs.