The road to Wembley starts this weekend

Emily Maguire Indoor Hockey

The road to Wembley starts this weekend, with the first round of fixtures in the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Premier Divisions. The Men’s and Women’s Divisions both feature 9 teams, and all of them will be battling to get through to Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Finals at Wembley on Sunday 2nd February.

'The Maxinutrition Hockey 5s' is the new name ecompassing England Hockey's indoor competitions, which were formerly known as the Maxifuel Super Sixes. There are four rounds of matches held this weekend (14-15 December), as well as 4-5 January 2014, with the teams who finish in the top four qualifying for semi-finals, held a week after the Premier Division's last matches. The two winning teams from this event will qualify for the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Finals at Wembley Arena.

The Women’s Premier Division is held at Bromsgrove School, and there has been a late change of venue for the first weekend of the Men’s Premier Division which will now be held at Cocks Moor Woods Leisure Centre in Birmingham. The second weekend will go ahead as scheduled at the home of the FA, St Georges Park.

Reading are the current Women’s champions and they’ll be fielding a strong squad on the first stage of their title defence. They’ve named their five players, all of whom helped England to the bronze medal in last weekend’s World League – Kate & Helen Richardson-Walsh, Sam Quek, Susie Gilbert and Alex Danson. However, Susie Townsend has opted to play for Bowdon Hightown, as well as Sally Walton. This is in line with tournament regulations, where clubs can field a maximum of two players who play outdoors for different teams. Other registrations of note see England keeper Maddie Hinch in goal for Slough and her teammate Sophie Bray in the colours of East Grinstead, who have been promoted to the top flight for the first time. Another international on show (though from cricket rather than hockey) is Susie Rowe, who’s playing for Canterbury.

East Grinstead have dominated the men’s game and have won every final since the move to Wembley in 2011. Their experienced squad includes two sets of brothers – Ashley & Wes Jackson along with Niall & Ross Stott – and they again have the Czech Republic’s Fillip Neusser in goal to boost their hopes of a sixth successive title. Beeston, who EG have beaten in the last two finals, rely on their usual outdoor squad to provide a challenge indoors. Perennial challengers Reading welcome back former international keeper Nick Brothers, who has retired from the top flight international game.

Full squad lists for the weekend are available at the foot of the page.

Elsewhere the delayed 2012-13 Division Two leagues were completed last weekend with Cannock and Team Bath Buccaneers promoted in the Men’s and Buckingham and Chelmsford in the Women’s. The Division One schedules for post-Christmas are now complete, with Division Two North & South awaiting final regional qualifiers.

If you want to read more about the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Indoor Championships, see the links below for full league details:

Women’s Maxinutrition Hockey 5s
Men’s Maxinutrition Hockey 5s