Gareth Furlong is looking for Wales to spring a surprise at 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Former Cambridge Nomads player is heading to Australia
Gareth Furlong is aiming to cause some upsets at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games after being named in the Wales hockey squad.
The 25-year-old defender will be heading to his second Games after representing the country in Glasgow in 2014, and he believes the squad is in a much stronger position four years on.
The former Cambridge Nomads player, who is now at Surbiton, has made 83 appearances for Wales, so is well qualified to assess their development.
“The year before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games we got relegated to the third of four tiers of European hockey, so it was a bit of a rebuilding thing after the Games,” said Furlong.
“We were 37th in the world, but as of this summer we’re up to 24th so it’s quite a big jump. We won the 2015 European third tier to go into the second tier, and in 2017, we finished second to go into the top European tier, with England, the Netherlands, the Germans, so the top European sides.
“It’s been quite a good couple of years. It will hopefully mean we will get to go to more higher profile tournaments and
be invited to more stuff, so we’re in quite a good place at the moment.”
In what is quite a young Welsh squad, with an average age of 23, Furlong is one of the more experienced players.
He is one of seven players with previous Games experience, having made his debut in 2010.
“I wouldn’t consider myself to be near the end of my playing career,” he said, “and that is the thing for a lot of the boys.
“Hopefully, if we can keep this training group together, we’ve got some really exciting young players coming through as well, we can continue to push on and keep our ranking going down.”
Despite their progress, Wales will still be the lowest ranked of the 10 teams competing in Australia.
Furlong, though, believes that they must use the tournament to prepare for the European hockey tier one which they head into in 2019.
“It’s definitely not the case of going there as the lowest-ranked side and making up the numbers,” he said.
“We’re looking to go there this time and cause a few upsets.
“We will have to play as well as we can, but we definitely feel if we do, we can compete with the majority of the sides in the tournament.
“It’s exciting to get out there and see what we can do really. Definitely for us, leading into the top division next summer, this is a really good building thing for us being able to play against all these top sides will stand us in good stead.
“Every four years, it’s definitely something to have your eye on and we’ve had a good couple of years so we’re really excited to just get out there and pit ourselves against some of the top ranked sides in the world to see what we can do.”
There were a few mixed emotions for Furlong though, as younger brother Rhodri missed out on selection for the squad, but will be a travelling reserve involved in all the preparation work.
“It would have been brilliant if we were both going and playing,” said Furlong. “It was great to know that I was going and him being a travelling reserve is not ideal, it makes it a bit tougher.
“But he has been really good about it, and will keep on training and if there is an unfortunate event that someone is injured he will get his chance to show what he can do as well.”