Cardiff & Met's Premier Division debut to boost whole of Welsh hockey - Hawker

Cardiff & Met hockey club's first season in the Premier Division will benefit the whole of Welsh hockey, according to Wales captain Luke Hawker.

The 33-year-old and his Cardiff & Met team-mates began their debut season in the top flight of the English men's club pyramid on Saturday.

The Welsh side lost 4-1 against Southgate in Cardiff.

"This is something the club has been building towards since I first joined back in 2009," said. Hawker.

"Had we gone up into the Premier League five or six years ago, the club probably wasn't ready for it, but we are in a much stronger position now.

"By getting to the Premier League we are demonstrating if we get our clubs right, then we are capable of having clubs who can compete with the strongest across England and Wales."

Hawker believes Cardiff and Met's elevation to the 12-team Premier League, becoming the first Welsh side to play in the English men's elite club league, sends a powerful message to players with international aspirations - that it is possible to sustain an elite level club and international career without having to move out of Wales.

"If you look back to a couple of years ago, there were six or eight Cardiff boys who were in the Wales squad and I'd say there are about 80% of the current senior men's squad who have been through the Cardiff club at some stage," said Cardiff & met lecturer Hawker on the eve of the game at the Welsh Institute of Sport.​

"By having a Premier Division team, it means players don't have to end up feeling they need to go to London - or even to Europe - to have that top club level experience. It proves they can stay in Wales and have the highest level of hockey that's available in the UK.

"There are also opportunities, spin-offs to expand the sport. We want to showcase the sport and say if you want top-class sport in Cardiff you don't have to spend 80 quid to watch a Wales international rugby match, you can spend a fiver watching top level hockey and have a good experience."

Cardiff & Met stormed to the Men's Division 1 North title last season, losing just two of 18 matches.

Southgate were just as dominant in Division 1 South, winning 15, drawing one and losing just twice as they also went up.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend, Wimbledon faced Beeston, East Grinstead hosted Oxted, Holcombe met Reading, Surbiton were up against Hampstead and Westminster, and University of Nottingham entertained Old Georgians.