Western Wildcats skipper Rob Harwood: Winning title would mean so much

Western Wildcats men’s team are heading into Christmas very much as the stars on top of the Scottish hockey tree.

Western Wildcats skipper Rob Harwood is looking forward to a big year with both club and country

The Milngavie outfit have yet to lose a match this season, indoor or out.

Chasing their first outdoor title since 2004, they are five points clear of Grange at the top of the Premiership standings going into the winter break.

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Wildcats have won 10 out of their 11 matches, the only blip being a 4-4 draw against Edinburgh University – and even that felt like a positive result as they came from 4-1 down to salvage a point.

And it’s been a similar story in the National Indoor League with five wins out of five so far.

As a local lad who came through the ranks, Scotland international and club captain Rob Harwood admits that leading the club to the end of their outdoor title famine would mean more to him than most.

"It's been the target for the past few seasons now,” he said.

“This is the first season I've taken over the captaincy role and it's been a real privilege.

"To win it this season would mean so much to everyone at the club but for the guys that came through especially I think it would mean a lot.

"There's been a long rebuild after the old crop left so it's been a long time coming with people coming through. But we're now at a good age where it's all starting to come together again."

Winning consistently – event when not playing particularly well – is key to a title challenge in any sport and Harwood says that’s been one of the major differences with the Auchenhowie outfit this season.

"Other than the game against Edinburgh Uni we've been pretty relentless. Consistency is something we've struggled with in previous seasons, where we've maybe had a better squad than our end position suggested,” he said.

"We've always done well against the better teams in the league but slipped up against teams we would expect to beat, so that's something we've put a big focus on this year.

"We've had a few additions to the team. Callum Duke is a Scottish international and has been a really good addition in midfield and Johnny Christie up front has come from Kelburne.

"He's a former Scotland international and has been another good, experienced voice in the squad.

"Also this is now Vishal [Marwaha]'s third season as coach and I think his ideas are settle and the squad has got used to his style of coaching and it's all coming together quite nicely."

For Harwood 2022 is shaping up as a massive year, both domestically and on the international front.

As well as chasing a title double Wildcats also have European hockey to look forward to in June when they take part in the Euroclub Hockey Trophy II in Geneva.

To use a football analogy Wildcats were originally due to play in the hockey equivalent of the Europa League, but have been demoted to the Conference League.

"The second tier tournament we were supposed to go to in August, we pulled out for Covid reasons,” explained Harwood.

"We just couldn't get a team together because of the isolation rules so we were automatically relegated because we didn't attend.

"But it will be exciting to go away as a squad for our first outdoor tournament in a long time as well."

For Scotland there’s the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – Harwood will be hoping to play in his second Games after being selected for the Gold Coast in 2018.

That will be quickly followed by the European Championship qualifiers in home ground in Glasgow when Scotland will battle it out with Wales, Austria, Poland, France and Ireland for a top tier place.