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Cannock's Lily Walker believes Birmingham ‘22 could be life-changing

For Lily Walker, the Commonwealth Games offers the chance to make a life-changing impact in very familiar surroundings.

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Having grown up in Cannock and played for her hometown club for a decade, the 20-year-old has enough reason to be excited about being part of the England Women's Hockey team.

Add to that the fact she is currently studying at and plays for the University of Birmingham – the venue for all the hockey at the Games – things have worked out brilliantly.

"It has worked out amazingly and I just can't wait to be part of a team that's already had so much success," said Walker.

"I took up hockey with Cannock aged six and stayed there until I was 16.

"At that point, I needed to progress and maybe go to a Premier League team.

"With Birmingham, I always loved the players who went through that pathway.

"Even that was a dream, being able to go there at 16.

"There's so much experience in the England team, so to come into that as well, it's a dream come true."

Walker, who studies social policy at the University of Birmingham, could well be part of a medal-winning team.

England won bronze at the 2018 Gold Coast Games and several members of that group – Laura Unsworth, Anna Toman and Hannah Martin included – are in this line-up as well.

On their podium chances, Walker said: "As a team, it's definitely an aim of ours and something we really want to achieve and strive for.

"We're not going just to be part of a home Games.

"We're really going to set our sights on a medal.

"At the same time, we'll take it step by step and follow all the right processes.

"We'll make sure we don't get too excited and just go step by step, take it day by day."

England's first game is due to be against Ghana on Saturday, July 30.

The five-team Pool A also includes Canada, India and Wales, with the top two advancing to the semi-finals along with the top two from Pool B.

Walker made her international debut earlier this year in a win over the USA.

She won the England Hockey women’s emerging performance player of the year award back in 2020 and previously served as the first XI skipper at Repton School.

Walker is now ready to embrace her maiden appearance at a major Games as she added: "I'll look to do as much as I can off the ball and make sure that I do everything right.

"You've just got to be brave and do everything you can.

"I'll try to be composed on the ball, stay calm, and just see how it goes from there."