Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Gordon Maxwell Allan Peake

Few MEN can claim an international hockey career spanning fourteen years and, during it play at as consistently a high standard as Gordon Maxwell Allan Peake did for Rhodesia.

'Alpal', a nickname that stemmed from his good nature, friendliness and sportsmanship, aptly summed up this genial hockey giant who was undoubtedly the crown prince of Rhodesian defenders.

After his debut for Rhodesia against Border in 1966, and an international debut against South Africa later the same year, Allan Peake went on to make a record forty-three Test appearances for his country.

Had circumstances been different and Rhodesian sport not been isolated because of United Nations sanctions. Peake could well have reached a hundred caps. A two-year spell in South Africa in the mid-70s caused him to miss at least twelve internationals for Rhodesia, which games would have taken him past fifty- one Test appearances.

Peake impressed onlookers whenever he played. There are few reports of him having had a poor game. Such were his reflexes on his 'wrong-hand side' that he was the bane of all attacking hockey players. He also combined a marvellous recovery ability with solid cover defence and he was able to turn defence into attack quickly by beating an opponent in the tackle and taking the initiative with controlled dribbling runs up midfield.

Peake was born at Fulham, England, on 12 September 1945 and came to Rhodesia with his parents when he was only nine months old. His hockey career began at Churchill School, Salisbury. By the time he was a senior, his game had progressed enough for him to make the Rhodesian Schools side in 1962, and he toured South Africa and Kenya with the team.

Since his first Test against South Africa in 1966, Peake became virtually an automatic choice at full back for Rhodesia. It was difficult to imagine the national side without him and his departure to South Africa in early 1974 was a serious blow, particularly with the eight nations tournament coming up and a tour of Europe the following year.

National hockey coach, Mark Manolios, who has been acquainted with Rhodesian hockey sides since 1951, maintained Peake was in world class and there were few visiting coaches who disagreed with him. "While it is always difficult to provide comparisons in the stature of players, I would say Allan Peake was one of Rhodesia's greatest players, if not the best," Manolios said when Peake left for South Africa in 1974.

Peake captained the Rhodesian side from 1972-74 and when he returned from South Africa in 1976 he again led the team after the departure of Dave West. He made two tours of Europe with the Rhodesian side, the first in 1967 and then again in 1970, by which time he had accumulated eleven international caps.

In Tests against West Germany, one of the top hockey-playing nations, Peake came to light, and their national coach, Hugo Budinger, rated 'Alpal' one of the best full backs he had seen.

Peake accompanied the Rhodesian Shumbas team on a tour of England in 1972 and his classy defence play again caught the eye. Hockey Scene, the official journal of the English Hockey Association, wrote: "Allan Peake, the current Rhodesian full back, was superb.

"His combination of speed and strength reminded one of Richard Oliver and what higher praise can there be?" (Richard Oliver was full back for Great Britain during the same era and was one of the world's great defenders).

During his spell in South Africa, Peake played for the famous Johannesburg club, Wanderers, and for Southern Transvaal, the strongest South African province.

His allegiance always lay with Rhodesia, however, and when the Rhodesian team took part in the eight nations tournament at Johannesburg in 1974, Peake was always there on the sidelines to give his support. His return to Rhodesia in 1976 delighted players and followers alike and prompted Mark Manolios to comment: "He's been one of our best-ever players and I still hold that view after watching him play for Wanderers in Johannesburg. It's great to have him back."

An honour for Peake was his selection in 1973 as one of the five finalists for the Rhodesian Sportsman of the Year award when squash star, Gay Erskine, carried off the John Hopley Memorial Trophy. He was again a finalist in 1979 when golfer Simon Hobday took the honours.

After a series against the Springboks, more praise was in line for the Rhodesian. Springbok captain, Neville Berman, ranked one of the best forwards in the world, rated Peake the best defender he ever had the 'misfortune' to play against.

In keeping with his outstanding ability, Peake's sportsmanship was exemplary. Illegal tactics were never part of his game although he was often the victim of brutal hacks from frustrated opposition forwards in their attempts to get past him.

His retirement in 1980, brought about by a desire to spend more time with his family and business and also to give the younger players a chance (he felt he'd had a good run and it was time to step down) left a hole in the national side that was difficult to fill.

Always the gentleman, Peake left hockey in the same way that he had entered the game — unobtrusively, with the minimum of fuss.

However, after a brief retirement — he missed Zimbabwe's first home series against Kenya in May — Peake was persuaded to return in June 1980 to face the world champions, Pakistan, in four Tests, three at Salisbury and one at Bulawayo.

Bob Mills led the team in the 2-2 series draw against Kenya, but Peake was restored to the captaincy to face Pakistan, whose captain Munawar Zaman, rated him as one of the three outstanding home players along with goalkeeper Dave Houghton and centre forward Gerald Peckover.

Certainly the Zimbabwe defence had ample opportunity to show their paces as Pakistan won the series 3-0, 5-1, 2-1,7-1. But Zimbabwe were never disgraced and responded well to Peake's leadership. He led by example and made several thrilling individual runs upfield after breaking down Pakistan attacks in the almost casual fashion that was his hallmark.

Peake was now again well established in the national team, but was available for home matches only. He felt the tours were for younger players. He continued his career when Holland arrived for an international series in Zimbabwe in July 1980.

He earned his fiftieth international cap in the third Test at Salisbury Sports Club against European champions, Holland, on 26 July 1980. It was a highly successful series for Peake — he scored both goals from corner play in Zimbabwe's 2-0 first Test victory at Bulawayo, and another corner goal in the second Test, which Zimbabwe lost 2-1.



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