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Erin Hunter already revelling in her Ulster adventure

By John Flack

The Ulster Elks' new South African signing Erin Hunter certainly stood out from the crowd on Saturday when she made her debut in the 2-1 EY Irish Hockey League defeat to Pegasus at Jordanstown.

She was the only player on the pitch who chose to wear leggings - as a practical measure rather than a fashion statement.

Around this time of the year in Erin's native western province, it's mid-summer with temperatures in the low 30s Celsius, so she understandably experienced something of a culture shock at the University of Ulster where the thermometer struggled to reach four degrees.

But the 23-year-old defender doesn't mind the disparity in the respective climates as she had a novel experience earlier in the week.

"The cold has taken a bit of getting used to but I saw snow for the first time in my life and I found that very exciting at the start anyway," she explained.

"It was such a novel experience for me that I was jumping and skipping in it and it was fun for about 10 minutes but then it got very cold and it wasn't so much fun then!"

The wintry weather apart, Erin says she is thoroughly enjoying the hockey experience in a new country along with her boyfriend Brad Logan, who plays for Banbridge.

It was an encounter with former Ireland men's coach Paul Revington that persuaded the pair to come here after they had finished their studies at Stellenbosch University.

"Paul suggested we come here and play a season in Ireland because he enjoyed it so much and he put us in contact with the right people, so here we are," Erin explained.

"I am really enjoying it so far and the people have been really friendly and I enjoyed my first match, although it was obviously disappointing to lose.

"It was quite a feisty and physical encounter, so that was a bit of a surprise to me but I will have to get used to it."

Erin couldn't have imagined that when she twice played for South Africa against Ireland during the World League semi-finals in Valencia in June that she would be on the same club side as two of her opponents only months later.

Captain Megan Frazer and Ireland's most-capped player Shirley McCay are, of course, two key members of the current squad and also star for the Elks.

Hunter made her senior international debut in 2014 against the Netherlands after three years on the South African Under-21 squad.

However, her ability as an international player may prevent her from playing in the Elks' first IHL game after the Christmas break.

The Elks were due to play Ards on Saturday but the two clubs agreed to a switch to January 27 because both teams would have been without key players.

There is just one Ulster team in IHL action this weekend as Pegasus go to Galway to take on bottom team Greenfields.

Reigning champions Pegasus have won three of their last four games and could make it into one of the play-off positions if, as expected, they manage to come home with a victory.

There are no senior games in Ulster, but Sunday sees the all-Ireland indoor series at Queen's PEC.

Belfast Telegraph


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