Great Britain and England Hockey have mixed emotions in reporting that Alex Danson-Bennett has decided to retire from hockey. Whilst it is hugely disappointing to lose a player of Alex’s calibre, we are happy in the knowledge that this is the right decision for her.
As has been widely documented, Alex was incredibly unfortunate to suffer a mild traumatic brain injury whilst on holiday in Kenya in late 2018. Despite a Herculean effort on her part, it has not been possible for her to get back to playing for her country. In addition, with significant changes in her personal life she has chosen to hang up her stick, and Great Britain & England Hockey support her unequivocally in that decision.
Alex said: "After a long 18 months but a fabulous 18 years in the sport, it's the right time for me to retire.
"It's been the most incredible journey I could have asked for, but a lot has changed. My head injury has been life-changing, also in terms of my perspective and things that have happened within my family. Throughout my career I've been 100% immersed in being an athlete, but my priorities are different now. All of that means it's the right time.
"I've known over the last couple of weeks that it was a decision I needed to come to. It's difficult because this has been my life. It'll be strange moving into something new, but I'm totally thankful and content. I have zero regrets about the way I've lived my career.
"I've lived my career in a manner that hockey has always been my priority, but I've come to that stage where I can't do that and it wouldn't be fair to the team. Your family are everything, there are many factors that have led to this decision. The opportunity to spend more time with my family is a gift and I look at it that way.
"Every single session in my career meant something to me, so too the people I played with, the coaches, the staff, I just wouldn't change a thing. The people I've been around have made my career, from my PE teacher who got me into the game, my mum and dad who supported me, my first team at Alton Hockey Club. I'm privileged to be ending a career in a position where I feel happy. I'm not sad, I'm really happy.
"Now, I will be the number one supporter of the team, I'd love to be in Tokyo watching, I just need to convince my husband! I came back to the squad because I believe they are a winning team. I'm sad not to be on the pitch but I will always feel part of it."
The 34-year-old is a true giant of the game, not just for her achievements as an athlete but also for the way she conducts herself off the pitch. It is no exaggeration to say she embodies all that is good about hockey; a spirited individual who puts the best interests of the team first.
Performance Director Ed Barney said: “On behalf of everyone at Great Britain and England Hockey, we would like to send our very best wishes to Alex. She has been an inspirational figure to all those who have worked with her, to those who have had the fortune to play with her and to many who have watched her exhilarating performances.
“Alex is a truly special person. It is impossible to find the right words to reflect how fortunate we have been to have Alex as part of our sport. We will miss her hugely both on and off the pitch. Having spoken with Alex, we know that she has made an incredibly difficult decision, but one that is right for her. Her achievements in the sport should be an incredible source of pride for her and her family and a motivation to others.”
Alex is Great Britain and England women’s all-time joint leading scorer with 115 goals in 306 appearances. She was joint top scorer in Rio 2016 as GB’s women won an historic gold medal and earned bronze at the London 2012 Olympics. She won a senior international medal for ten consecutive years from 2009 onwards, including European gold, Commonwealth silver and World Cup bronze among many others. At club level, she played for Clifton Robinsons, Reading, Trojans and Alton, while she also started an Academy in her name to introduce the sport to young children.
One of the leading figures in British women’s sport, in 2016 she was awarded an MBE for services to hockey, and a year later she was voted captain of the Great Britain and England women by her teammates. Nominated four times for FIH World player of the year, her final game was in front of a 10,000 home crowd in London at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup.
Great Britain and England Hockey will formally mark Alex’s incredible career in their FIH Hockey Pro League home game against Argentina at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday 16 May. With a capacity of up to 14,800, it will be a great moment to recognise Alex’s service to the sport.