Six­smith can still heat up Cold­field at age of 49!

Phil Jones meets four-time Olympian Jane Six­smith, still go­ing strong as she ap­proaches 50

The Hockey Paper - - WOMEN'S SUPER 6S -

BANDIED around in mod­ern par­lance with­out a care given for the grav­ity of the word; few names fall into the bracket wor­thy of be­ing dubbed a leg­end – but Jane Six­smith cer­tainly is one of them.

The four-time Olympian – she has a bronze medal from Barcelona 1992 – has backed her Sut­ton Cold­field team­mates to re­peat their in­door feats of 2013.

The West Mid­lands side fell at the fi­nal hur­dle on that oc­ca­sion, beaten 5-2 by Read­ing, but with three wins from their open­ing four fix­tures in this sea­son’s Su­per 6s, Six­smith is con­fi­dent Sut­ton can make the Wem­b­ley show­piece once again.

A nar­row 4-3 win over Read­ing was fol­lowed by a 9-3 hum­bling at the hands of Slough in Telford last week­end, but Sut­ton – play­ing with­out Six­smith – bounced back with fur­ther sin­gle-goal vic­to­ries over Buck­ing­ham and East Grin­stead to sit sec­ond in the Premier Divi­sion at the half­way stage.

“It was a fan­tas­tic start for the girls,” said the 49-year-old. “They have en­tered an in­door league, so they have been prac­tis­ing quite a bit.

“But if you had asked them be­fore the week­end if they’d take sec­ond place af­ter the first round of fix­tures, then they would have been quite shocked – so it was a great start.

“And if you look at the stand­ings now, then they have got a cou­ple of teams to play from the top four, but also a cou­ple of teams from the bot­tom three.

“So if things go to plan then hope­fully they will fin­ish within that top four and get to Wem­b­ley, which would be bril­liant.”

Six­smith her­self is ab­sent af­ter a com­bi­na­tion of in­jury and com­mit­ment to her new job as hockey coach at the Soli­hull School lim­ited her to two out­door ap­pear­ances in the Con­fer­ence North so far this sea­son.

But with her ex­pe­ri­ence in the game there are few bet­ter judges of mod­ern hockey, and Six­smith high­lighted the im­por­tance of Sut­ton’s cap­tain fan­tas­tic, Vicky Wool­ford, to their side’s in­door cam­paign.

“Vicky is key,” Six­smith said of the 34-year-old who scored four goals last week­end. “She’s a very strong de­fender. I mean she’s a for­ward re­ally, but plays in de­fence.

“Laura Price has been scor­ing a few goals as well, she’s a good de­fender who wasn’t re­ally both­ered about play­ing in­door two years ago, but this sea­son she’s re­ally taken to it and is a strong player.

“Then Becky Bats­ford, the goal­keeper, has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence – al­though she may want to for­get the 9-3 game – but she’s a great player to have in your team. She’ll come out and al­most be the ex­tra player you need from a goal­keeper, rather than sit­ting back, she’s quite an at­tack­ing goal­keeper.”

Six­smith approves of the de­ci­sion to scrap the five-a-side ex­per­i­ment we saw in in­door hockey three years ago, pre­fer­ring the more tac­ti­cal na­ture and need to move the ball quickly on a more crowded pitch.

And with in­door hockey pro­vid­ing an an­nual tune-up to a player’s stick skills, Six­smith is hop­ing suc­cess in the for­mat can give Sut­ton a boost when the ac­tion heads back out­side in Fe­bru­ary.

Sut­ton cur­rently sit fifth in Con­fer­ence North, hav­ing played nine of their 18 fix­tures, and the 1991 Euro­pean cham­pion has been im­pressed with their re­silience so far this term.

“We al­ways ben­e­fit from hav­ing a good in­door sea­son, so the fact the girls are do­ing well in­door, they will be re­ally buoyed when they come back to out­doors,” she added.

“In­door re­ally hones your skills, makes you that much quicker, sharper, on the ball.

“The other teams in our divi­sion are not play­ing Premier level in­door, some of them are play­ing in the other leagues, but not the level we are play­ing, so that can only ben­e­fit us when we go back out­doors.

“On a per­sonal note I’ll see what hap­pens af­ter Christmas – my school com­mit­ments aren’t as big af­ter Christmas as they were prior, so hope­fully I’ll be able to play a few more games.

“This sea­son we lost four of our start­ing XI from last sea­son, so it took us a while to ad­just.

“But, I think we’ve done well to over­come the ini­tial start. It could all have gone hor­ri­bly wrong and we could’ve just kept los­ing, and los­ing, and los­ing.

“But, grad­u­ally, the team have man­aged to pick them­selves up again, and are start­ing to win games.”

Away from the do­mes­tic game she knows so well, Six­smith was dis­ap­pointed to see her in­ter­na­tional suc­ces­sors miss out on the team of the year prize at the BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity cer­e­mony, on Sun­day. Le­ices­ter City an d their man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri got the nod ahead of Team GB’s gold medal-win­ning hockey women, but the for­ward – who played with Rio hero Laura Unsworth at Sut­ton – would have liked to see more recog­ni­tion for the sport she loves, as well as fe­male award win­ners. “Le­ices­ter City’s re­ac­tion said it all for me. They were like: ‘Oh, have we won, are we get­ting an award?’ They weren’t both­ered about it, at all,” she con­cluded. “Yes an Olympics is only a cou­ple of weeks and foot­ball is over a full sea­son, but in­ter­na­tional hockey play­ers com­mit to a four-year pro­gramme build­ing up

Few names fall into the bracket of be­ing dubbed a leg­end – but Jane Six­smith is cer­tainly one of them

to the Games – it’s not just a case of cou­ple of weeks and then ‘oh yeah, we’ve won a medal’.

“And it was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing when you looked at the num­ber of women that were fea­tured, but didn’t win – apart from Si­mone Biles, of course.

“The fact there weren’t any women in the top three, there was still noth­ing there for young peo­ple to as­pire to, for women’s sport.

“I know the main award’s a pub­lic vote, and we can’t do any­thing about that, but the team award, I was just re­ally dis­ap­pointed as that is done in­ter­nally.

“As soon as Gareth South­gate stood up then I thought it was bound to be given to Le­ices­ter City.

“Why did they not open that up for a pub­lic vote? You’d like to think that if it went to a pub­lic vote it would’ve been a dif­fer­ent re­sult.”

The joy of Six: Jane Six­smith cel­e­brates with Sut­ton Cold­field team-mate Laura Unsworth

Main player: Vicky Wool­ford is key, ac­cord­ing to Six­smith

Top coach: Clau­dio Ranieri

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