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England embrace 'Grow A Mo' ahead of HWL Final

ESPN

England midfielder Adam Dixon will be difficult to recognise during the opening match of the Hockey World League Final, between his team and Germany. Dixon is one of five players with the England team in Bhubaneswar who has been pitching in to the 'Grow A Mo' cause for the Movember Foundation, commonly associated with male athletes in recent years, particularly Australian cricketers and the All Blacks from New Zealand.

"It's something that is very topical -- the mental health of males, especially in high-level sport, it's an important subject and a lot of us can relate to the issues that people have. If we can help out -- we have raised a couple of thousand pounds, which is a great effort, and this is our final effort to push it," says Dixon, who was part of an original group of eight players, and assistant coach Russell Garcia, who were chosen for the cause. The original target they had set themselves was GBP 500, and have done far better.

The other members of the England squad who will be sporting moustaches on Thursday are strikers Sam Ward and Chris Griffiths, midfielder Harry Martin and goalkeeper and co-captain George Pinner. There have been some memorable sidelights.

"Sam Ward has made very good friends with one of the porters at the hotel, who's a big fan of his moustache. He thinks it's very well-kept, but he doesn't know that Sam actually uses a bit of hair-dye to make it stand out," laughs Dixon. "I got called Al Pacino yesterday.

"It's a good bit of fun, but whether we see them all for tomorrow's match against Germany, I am not so sure."

The idea, says Pinner, came from defender Michael Hoare, who is also the biggest individual contributor to the cause. Hoare unfortunately injured himself, and couldn't make it to the World League Final, where the men's team is hoping to convert their recent string of good performances at global events into a medal.

"Performance is big. We want to perform well. We have the Commonwealth Games and then the World Cup again here in Bhubaneswar (next year). Performance is important, but we will want to win," says Pinner of the England team, who at seventh will be lowest-ranked team in Pool A.

"But for us, we have to keep getting better. We've got a young side, so there's no pressure on us. Yes, we want to win the title, but in the group we want to get better and better and then hopefully win our quarterfinal match."

Dixon admits the pressure of winning titles will always hang around the team, especially now that the Great Britain women's team are Olympic champions.

"We feel like we've had a good 2017 so far, winning at the Azlan Shah and the bronze at the Europeans. We just want to see that (when) we turn up for a tournament, we want to be better than we were in the last one. We are taking it one step at a time, and that's the way we want to approach this tournament as well. Try and get a little better, each quarter, each game."