Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals Preview 5: Abi Harper

Abi Harper, Reading
In the fifth of our series of interviews with the key protagonists ahead of the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals on Sunday, Reading captain Abi Harper explains why Reading have the perfect team for indoors and talks about the buzz of the crowd at Wembley.

Abi Harper in action for ReadingUnfortunately for Reading captain Abi Harper, her role in Reading’s Maxifuel Super Sixes campaign won’t be as she’d expected come Sunday.  Having picked up an injury last weekend, Harper will have a watching brief at Wembley Arena.

Testing yourself again the highest quality opposition is what every athlete wants to do. Winning easy will only satisfy for so long but you soon get to the stage when to be the best, you have to beat the best. Reading ladies suffered an agonizing defeat at Wembley Arena in 2011, losing out through sudden death penalty strokes (9-8) to Bowdon Hightown, the same opposition they met at the semi-final stages of this year’s competition. Another hard fought match saw the northern girls defeated 3-2 in a thrilling encounter that lived up to its billing. This victory doesn’t count for much now however; no trophies have been won, the title isn’t secured yet. The win simply provides the opportunity to fight another fight, this time against a determined Leicester side as Harper explains,

“It’s always a good battle outdoors [against Leicester] as obviously they are one of our key opponents in the outdoor game. We watched them play and I think we have a good idea about what to expect. They are a big threat at the back, they’ve got some decent players but we will be looking to use our tactics to focus on how we play”.

The will to win for each other is a strong driving force for Simon Letchford's side.  Having finished fourth in the Maxifuel Super Sixes Championships standings, seven points behind table topping Bowdon Hightown with three losses, a now or never attitude was mobilised,

“We knew we had a lot of work to do but we had a lot of belief in the depth of our squad and we knew if we put our heads together and believed in ourselves we had the confidence to actually come through”.

Abi Harper in action for Reading

Reading are looking at home at the head of the outdoor Investec Women’s Hockey League, tasting defeat just once in the eleven games played before Christmas. Intriguingly the only team to have beaten them is Leicester, who also came out on the bright side of a 3-2 result in early stages of the indoor competition. However, England international Harper knows her team could still hold an advantage over their rivals having been part of the finals last year. 6,000 boisterous, enthusiastic fans are due to pack out Wembley Arena creating a cauldron of noise and anticipation that feels intense when you are the target for such excitement.

“The crowd just gives you that extra buzz and even though you need the ability to stay focused on the task at hand, having all those people screaming for you or just the fact that they are there and you’ve got that buzz, it’s an amazing experience.  We’re so happy to be there” explained Harper.

The Berkshire side has plied their team with experience in an effort to give themselves the best possible chance of success, selecting players that know the game better than most.

“The general style of the game and the set plays suits us because we definitely consider ourselves, the squad that we have, as an indoor side rather than an outdoor team trying to play indoor”.

Before the women’s final gets underway there is the small matter of the men’s semi-finals to settle, the first of these see’s Reading men up against current champions East Grinstead. There is no danger of the two sides distracting each other before pass back.

“It is such a great achievement for our club and it helps that we are able to see one another at the arena and wish each other luck. It’s great to see the men and the women’s sides have been able to reach that stage”.

This attitude displayed by the Reading club comes from Harper’s newly created team motto – Together we can succeed.

So far so good for the ‘Ding.

Words: Kerry Stewart


Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals logo

Tickets are still available for the fastest show in town, the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals, at London’s Wembley Arena on Sunday giving hockey fans the chance to get right up close to the action.

See East Grinstead versus Reading and Bowdon versus Beeston in the men’s semi finals before Reading take on Leicester in the women’s final ahead of the men’s final. Doors open at 11:00am with East Grinstead v Reading starting at 12:00 noon.

As well as all of the action on the pitch, visitors to Wembley Arena will have the chance to meet the Great Britain men’s team, pose for photos with their heroes and test themselves in The Cage. Singer/songwriter Katy Shotter will perform and the new Great Britain replica hockey shirt will be on sale for the first time.

Tickets can still be bought online from ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 815 0815. Tickets start at just £5 for U18s and £12.50 for adults. Tickets purchased on the door on Sunday will cost £5 more.

Sky Sports 2 LogoFor those fans that can’t make it to Wembley, the great news is that three hours of live action from the Maxifuel Super Sixes Finals will be broadcast on Sky Sports 2 from 3-6pm on Sunday. England men’s indoor Head Coach Andy Halliday and Olton & West Warwicks’ England indoor captain Denise Marston-Smith will be the studio guests while Nick Irvine, three times Olympic goalkeeper Simon Mason and double Olympian Mel Clewlow will be in the commentary box.

BBC LogoAnd before all of that, you can see Great Britain’s women in Champions Trophy action live via the BBC Red Button and Eurosport. Starting with Saturday evening’s opening match against Japan, Eurosport logoGreat Britain’s pool matches against Japan, the Netherlands and China will be shown on the BBC Red Button and Eurosport 2, all getting underway at 6:00pm GMT. Some matches may not be available on Freeview Red Button while Eurosport's coverage of some matches may be delayed. Please refer to the schedule below for exact details.

EUROSPORT 2 SCHEDULE - FIH CHAMPIONS TROPHY, 28 JANUARY - 5 FEBRUARY

Saturday 28 January
Netherlands v China - Live at 3.30pm
GB v Japan - Delayed at 7:45pm

Sunday 29 January
China v Japan Live
GB v Netherlands - Delayed 10:00pm

Monday 30 January
GB v Netherlands - Delayed 1:00pm
Germany v Argentina - Delayed 2.00pm

Tuesday 31 Janaury
Netherland v Japan - Delayed 4.45pm

Wednesday 1 February
GB v China - Delayed 12:00pm

Thursday 2 February
Two matches - Live

Saturday 4 February
Semi Final 1 - Live at 8.30pm
Semi Final 2 - Live at 11.00pm

Sunday 5 February
3/4th place game - Live at 9.30pm
Final - Live at 11.00pmBBC SCHEDULE - FIH CHAMPIONS TROPHY, 28 JANUARY - 5 FEBRUARY

Saturday 28 January
1800-2100 UK - Pool A - Great Britain v Japan – Live on DSat and cable, not live on Freeview but replayed at 2125-2325

Sunday 29 January
1800-2100 UK - Pool A - Great Britain v Netherlands – Live on DSat and cable, and live on Freeview until 2000

Tuesday 31 January
1800-2000 UK - Pool A - China v Great Britain – Live on DSat, cable, and Freeview

Thursday 2 February
4 games at 3.30pm, 6pm, 8.30pm and 11pm - Quarter Finals – Live on DSat and cable, not available on Freeview

Saturday 4 February
Semi finals at 8.30pm and 11pm - Live on DSat, cable, and Freeview

Sunday 5 February
Tbc - classification/medal matches - 7th v 8th 3.30pm, 5th v 6th 6pm, 3rd v 4th 8.30pm and final at 11pm – Live on DSat and cable, but only available on freeview for live final.