** Main picture: Laura Nunnink on the attack against HGC. Picture: Robert Sanders Photography
While Den Bosch are European women’s hockey’s most decorated club, for one of their star turns – Laura Nunnink – this represents a new beginning and a big chance at a first piece of club silverware.
She joined the club last summer from Oranje-Rood, looking for a new challenge after so long as the key player in Eindhoven, the club where she started her hockey career.
But the opportunity for the 26-year-old to move up the road to their Brabant rivals was one that came at the right time with current coach Raoul Ehren adding the brilliant midfielder to his ranks.
“Oranje-Zwart and then Oranje-Rood was definitely my club, my hockey home,” she told the EHL website. “I always felt super at home and it was really hard to leave them. Raoul contacted me to see if I was interested.
“For me, I am at a point in my career where I want to take an extra step and still get better. I was looking for a new challenge and a new environment.
“For me, personally, it was time for something new. With Oranje-Rood, they were at a point of starting to rebuild. They got to the playoffs, something I was really proud to do with the club, but they needed to build a new team and that wasn’t really where I wanted to be in my career.”
And so where better than Den Bosch, the 16-time European cup winners with all of them coming since 2000. A team stacked with fellow World Cup winners like Lidewij Welten, Marloes Keetels, Sanne Koolen, Frédérique Matla, Ireen van den Assem, Josine Koning and Margot van Geffen.
“At Den Bosch, I knew already so many people from the national team and a good connection with a lot of them and they were so welcoming and I am really happy with the decision.”
The nature of her move was an odd one, unable to say a full goodbye to the club which made her due to the curtailed 2019/20 season. She did return for a league match in this campaign but ongoing restrictions meant there was not the usual buzz around the club.
“Due to corona, it was very strange to go back to the club with a different team. There were not a lot of people at the club, no fans allowed, basically us and Oranje-Rood. It was super-nice to play against people like Marlena [Rybacha] but it was odd not going to the changing room of Oranje-Rood, in the away team room.”
But now is a time for looking forward and her new biggest rival is AH&BC Amsterdam in both the Hoofdklasse and the ABN AMRO EHL FINAL4 next Saturday.
Amsterdam were the last winners of the European Cup in 2019 and are just behind Den Bosch on that all-time list with 14 gold medals in the top club competition.
“It really is a big rivalry. I don’t know for how many years it has been Den Bosch and Amsterdam as champion! That for me, it is the biggest competitor for us. It is big, everyone talks about it. We know we need to be sharp and ready and we are all looking forward to it.”
Den Bosch lost their league game 1-0 and have a three-point gap to make up in the league but this FINAL4 is exactly the kind of game she made the switch for and she cannot wait for the day to come.
“Both Den Bosch and Amsterdam have a lot of internationals from the Dutch team which makes things a bit special, doing at club level.
“It makes it a nice battle and the level is so high and there will be so many talented players on the pitch.
“I’m super excited we are able to play the EHL first of all. We heard news that it may be cancelled but then they came up with the FINAL4 so we are delighted that, during this pandemic, we are still able to play. I never played in Europe before!”