Support through Sport UK's Claire Allen covered the Investec Women's Hockey League Finals Day ...
Sunday 13th April saw the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work and dedication in the hockey world. Four matches played across the day would determine three things: which two teams would be promoted to the Premier League next season, the winners of the current Premier League and which teams would be going to the European Cup.
A beautiful sunny day, barely a cloud in the sky, it was the perfect day for watching some A-grade hockey. A lively atmosphere with plenty of 'have a go' activities for the children to take part in, and music blaring at every opportunity, saw the crowd in high spirits and eager for some action.
No less than 14 England hockey players were in action over the weekend - all happy and willing to talk, sign photographs and have pictures taken. I was lucky to speak with Alex Danson, Sam Quek and Helen Richardson-Walsh, all of Reading Hockey Club, and this just added to the excitement of the day. Helen Richardson-Walsh, who is out recovering from back surgery, and Nicola White were spectating in the stands. I was very grateful and impressed that the players took the time to talk to the spectators after their exhausting performances on the pitch; it was much appreciated by all.
The first game of the day saw Holcombe take on Brooklands Poynton, both eager for promotion and that much desired spot in the Premier League next season. Holcombe dominated the game with strong play throughout, winning 8-2, greatly helped by a hat-trick from Megan Fraser. This left Buckingham and Sutton Coldfield to fight for the second coveted Premiership place. This was a much more even game, with both teams having equal opportunities at goal and battling hard. In the end, however, Zoe Shipperley secured two goals for Buckingham to claim the win. Some very happy, joyous and overwhelmed Holcombe and Buckingham faces conveyed the hard work and dedication that these teams had put in to move up a league.
The third and fourth games of the day saw the top four teams of the current Premier League battle it out for league places and entry into the European Cup. Playing under European Rules, the games comprised four quarters of 17.5 minutes and the squads comprised 18 players - allowing for more substitution and fresh players.
First up, Reading took on Clifton. This fast-paced game involved some fantastic hockey, with some great attempts on goal from both teams. In the end, however, Reading pulled through as the better team, securing a 6-0 win which included a hat-trick from Becky Halle and two goals from England’s Alex Danson. Alex became the top goal scorer and the Player’s Player of the Year for the Premier League. Reading earned themselves third place in the Premier League and also entry into the European Cup.
To round off this wonderful day of women’s hockey, Surbiton faced Canterbury. Both had already earnt a spot in Europe thanks to their first and second places in the League - so the battle was on to determine who would place first in the League. An early goal from Emily Atkinson put Surbiton into the position they wanted and they then crashed home with a 3-0 win. The excitement on the pitch from the Surbiton players was palpable as, in only their second season in the Premier League, they had secured the top spot.
The most enjoyable day was had by all - it was a truly great day for women’s sport. I can’t wait for next season to get under way!