The five nominations for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Women's Goalkeeper of the Year award are all athletic, courageous players who have put in some miraculous performances this year – making crucial saves that are the difference between their team winning a tournament or failing to make the podium. The nominees are in alphabetical order.
Jackie Briggs is the USA’s sublime shot-stopper who was voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg earlier this year. The ‘keeper has been the backbone of a team that rose to fourth in the FIH Hero World Rankings on the back of the win in Johannesburg (USA is now ranked 7). Briggs has been a USA national team member since 2011, helping her team rise through the ranks to become the medal-challenging team it is today. In an era when the women's international game is blessed with great goalkeepers, Briggs is right there leading the way.
Belgium’s Red Panthers are going to the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup, London 2018 and goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe played a big role in getting them there. Belgium women have been on an upwards trajectory in the past few months, including some good performances at their home event – the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final plus a silver medal at Rabobank EuroHockey Championships 2017. It was at this latter event that D’Hooghe picked up the award for Best Goalkeeper, largely based on her superb performances in the pool match against Spain and then in the semi-final, where Belgium recorded a win over Germany. The silver medal is Belgium women’s first major hockey medal since a bronze medal at the 1978 World Cup.
Since she thwarted the Netherlands in the 2016 Olympic final shoot out, Maddie Hinch has gone from strength to strength. She was voted 2016 FIH Goalkeeper of the Year and is the ‘keeper that strikers fear facing, particularly in a shoot-out contest. Hinch has been a pivotal part of a new-look England team that has won bronze this year at both the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg and the Rabobank EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam. On the club scene, Hinch has been a key player in the Hoofdklasse league playing hockey for top Netherlands club SCHC.
Li Dongxiao is China’s lithe and athletic goalkeeper, who has certainly played her part in ensuring that China appeared at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final as well as qualifying for the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 by virtue of a second place finish at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Brussels. China’s tactics of soaking up pressure then attacking on the counter means the goalkeeper has plenty to do and Li has proven herself a courageous and swiftly-reacting ‘keeper. She has also taken on the challenging role of leading the team from between the posts. She was captain of China’s team during their recent exploits at the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final in Auckland and, with a team of new caps and young players, she steered them towards progressively better performances throughout the competition.
Anne Veenendaal is continuously fighting on two battle fronts. Firstly, the Netherlands ‘keeper is fighting the constant competition for her place from other top class goalkeepers all seeking to cement a spot with the Oranje. Then she has the battle with her knee – a torn meniscus has meant she has missed out on vital matches for club and country. Veenendaal is out of the game until January 2018 and then she has to prove her fitness in time for next year’s Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018. But, if fit, Veenendaal must be favourite to step between the posts following her performances in the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final, where only one goal in match time went past her, and in the EuroHockey Championships, where again, she only allowed one goal in.