Sun-cream was the order of the day down at the Bank of England Sports Centre on Sunday as sizzling temperatures brought an added intensity to the latest Hacks vs Flaks Easter Sports Day event.
It turned out to be a blockbuster, with a record £13,500 raised for WheelPower and an all star cast of Paralympians cheering on some tightly-fought football and netball games, which saw the Flaks come out on top.
Flaks hold their nerve in the Football
The match got off to a blistering pace with a new look Flaks team ignoring the furnace-like conditions by launching wave after wave of attack orchestrated by Fidelity’s Craig Terrington.
The PR’s newly signed strike partnership of the two Toms (Nationwide’s Portingdale and Lewis from Finsbury) looked dangerous with every touch and it was Lewis’s pace that eventually broke the Hack’s steely defence with a neat finish under the keeper.
The Hacks refused to buckle under further goal line pressure and against the run of play took advantage of a loose pass. The Economist’s Hamish Birrell, a new face for the Hacks, pounced, dancing through two challenges and curling a lovely long ranger into the net to make it all square.
The breathless encounter continued to see-saw. Man of the Match Lewis struck a blow for the Flaks only for midfielder-turned-centre back John McDermott, also of The Economist, to cap an impressive display when he equalised from a set piece.
As the game opened up in the second half, the Hacks found their rhythm with the midfield well marshalled by The Times’ Alex Ralph, Matthew Pettipher and Ben McLanahan, both of the FT. They deservedly took the lead for the first time when MoneySavingExpert’s Callum Brodie rose to head in a nicely worked move.
But it wasn’t long before the Flaks tested stand-in keeper and Captain Nick Clark (Freelance) who could only look on as Tom Hills from MHP struck a swerving shot low into the right hand corner. With shouts of ‘test the keeper’ Chris Wilson (The PR Office) almost won it for the Flaks in the dying moments but could only watch on as his lob bounced off the top of the cross-bar.
Despite officially recognising the result as a thrilling 3-3 draw, the players couldn’t resist settling next year’s bragging rights via a penalty shoot-out, which saw the Flaks holding their nerve to record a 5-3 victory.
Flaks outshine Hacks in the Netball
Out on the netball courts, for the first time in five years the Flaks trounced the Hacks in the A team match with a final score of 59-34. Becky Deeming, PR for the Toy and Hobby Association and Hannah Blackmore, Grant Thornton hardly missed a shot and Rebecca Gwilliam, Portland, won player of the match having shone in four different positions. Jodie McEwan, picture editor at the Times, was the stand out player on the Hacks.
Finsbury’s Lucy Noakes and Portland’s Charlotte Miller got the B team match off to a flying start with the Flaks up three goals after the first quarter. Heat exhaustion and a few late nights took their toll on the Hacks, but they came back fighting in the second quarter to even the match up. It was the usual cat fight as the Mail’s Claire Ellicott drew blood against the Flak’s tireless centre Isobel Stoddart from Redwood, who bravely toiled on. The third quarter was a whitewash for the Hacks, who needed several water breaks and had to be coaxed out of prone positions to get back on the court for the fourth quarter.
Great play from the Mail on Sunday’s Sanchez Manning and feisty defending from The Sun’s Lynn Davidson and The Times’ Lauren York failed to stop the Flaks’ energetic core team of Portland’s Rose Williams and Tahlie Cooper from Good Relations setting up the goals and the Flaks won 10 goals to 5. Sanchez “I can’t go on I’m knackered” Manning was named man of the match for sheer determination and feistiness.
After the action, the players and spectators heard how WheelPower – a charity dedicated to providing opportunities for disabled people to find a sport they enjoy – had helped support Paralympians Jess Stretton (MBE) and Izzy Bailey and take them to the Games in London and Rio. The WheelPower ambassadors then posed for photographs with the Paralympic torches from three different Games and Jess’s gold medal.
The real winner this year was the event itself attracting more players and sponsors than ever before. The day simply wouldn’t have been possible without corporate support and the HvFs committee would like to thank lead sponsors Amazon and Nationwide and co-sponsors EY, Direct Line, FTI Consulting and Vismedia for their generosity.
Edward Berry, Managing Director at FTI Consulting