Nick Bandurak: "I believed my chance had gone"

It’s an understatement to say Nick Bandurak took the scenic route to hockey’s summit.

He got halfway, came back to base camp and then scaled that mountain solo without the advantages of his peers.

After representing England at every age group, it took the striker nearly a decade to break into the senior squad.

Bandurak kept working towards his goal all those years, combining sport with full-time jobs at schools and in the marketing sector, as well as founding a coaching business.

Scoring a hatful of goals in club hockey for Holcombe, he eventually forced his way into international reckoning and made his England debut in February 2022.

The dead-eyed finisher has scored 20 goals in his first 21 international games and having won Commonwealth bronze last summer, will make his World Cup bow in India this month.

Here is Nick’s remarkable sporting journey in his own words.

The question is - how hard can you run when you can’t see the finish line?

For nine years I was on the outside looking in.

There were times - and I would never outwardly admit it - that I believed my chance had gone.

I was 28 when I went through the trial process, I was 29 when I got my first cap. That rarely, rarely happens.

You try to stay as optimistic as you can. These past nine years have been about doing what I do and trusting that my game will pay off.

That’s been the hardest bit, doing everything I can to stay close to the boys in full-time training.

It’s a mind-numbingly defiant belief and confidence that I’m doing the right thing. That’s been so tough, putting the work in when you’re not guaranteed the outcome that you want.

Ultimately it’s the journey that I fell in love with. I realised aged 23 that I loved the journey as much as what I believed the destination would be.

I wouldn’t change a single thing about the way I’ve approached the last few years.

I have a circle close to me that, deep down, knew what I wanted in this game. I fell in love with getting better, personally, on and off the pitch, in any walk of life.

That focus on the process got me here and I recognise the change in my game over the last few years that have allowed me to come in to international hockey and compete.

I learned what a big tournament was about at the Commonwealth Games and the goalposts move very quickly. A few months ago I’d have given my right arm for a trial, then I’d have given my right arm for a cap, a goal, then a tournament, now I have a medal.

It’s never too late. You have to enjoy the journey and anything you do is an opportunity to get better.

It’s what you do away from everyone that makes a difference in front of people. That’s made the difference domestically and I was able to be ready.

I enjoy scoring goals - it’s something I’ve always done. A coach, Colin Dexter, who I first worked with at nine years old, said I would get so much more enjoyment and learning out of the game if I found out different ways of scoring goals.

Rather than in training, trying to score six or seven of the same goal, he would put a limit on the type of goal I’d be able to score. He moulded what worked for me and created an arsenal of finishes that I’m comfortable with.

That never stops, there are always different ways to score. I’ve left a lot on the table.

To go to the Olympics in Paris would be surreal. What’s served me really well is staying present but you can't not be aware of the Olympics.

There’s a lot of improvement for me to make personally, in order to get to that level and have an impact on that stage.

The goalposts moved the morning after we won bronze in Birmingham and the focus was on the World Cup. That's why we love this game, and I’m enjoying the ride like you wouldn’t believe.