Hertfordshire Mavericks: Gloria Keech is Unsung Hero

Gloria Keech has loved netball since she was nine years old

A volunteer who established the only elite level netball team in the east of England has been named the BBC's Unsung Hero for the region.

Gloria Keech dedicates over 40 hours a week to netball, mostly at Super League club Hertfordshire Mavericks.

"Gloria is the heart and soul of Hertfordshire Mavericks," said head coach Karen Atkinson.

"We wouldn't have a Super League franchise or be able to compete nationally if it wasn't for her."

Keech, from Bedford, works with Bedfordshire County Netball Association and was also part of the committee that helped conceive the Hatfield-based Mavericks in 2005 and win them a position as a top-flight franchise.

She works the equivalent of a full-time job, seven days a week, without pay as the club's chair person, organising 40 volunteers and overseeing the majority of the team's administration.

"I've played netball since I was nine. I've been involved with Bedfordshire netball since 1970," said the 62-year-old.

"I think the camaraderie of netball is second to none. It is a team sport, you rely on others. I've always loved the social aspect.

"At elite level it is exceptional to watch. It is an exciting game.

"The club has developed way beyond our expectations. It isn't just about developing players. It's about developing everyone right down to matchday volunteers."

Mavericks have become one of the country's most successful teams, winning two Super League titles and finishing runners-up four times, as well as being the central point for the region's best talent.

The Hertfordshire team currently has four internationals in the England squad - Sasha Corbin, Kadeen Corbin, Lindsey Keable and Layla Guscoth.

Mavericks board member Maggie Jackson said: "Ever since we set up Mavericks she has been the life and blood of it.

"I don't think she recognises it's not normal to do that amount of volunteering. Nine years is a long time to be volunteering at that intensity.

"Gloria brings in the counties from the East region and has a real relationship with them. I think that's something we're really proud of."

Keech will now go forward for the national award, which will be presented at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Leeds on Sunday, 15 December.

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