Hockey: Stage set for world class performance

By Ben Guild

Finals fever, the international debut of a world-class facility and Tauranga's finest young female hockey stars in action mean this weekend's Four Nations tournament should be a cracker.

The second of the two tournaments making up the Four Nations format begins in Hamilton tonight, with Korea meeting USA from 5pm and Argentina and New Zealand - ranked second and third in the world - squaring off at 7pm.

Argentina then play Korea and New Zealand play USA in Hamilton tomorrow, before the the tournament arrives in Tauranga Hockey Centre on Saturday for the final round robin matches ahead of the playoffs the following day.

Tauranga Hockey Association general manager Clyde Du Toit is thrilled the international debut of the new facility has finally arrived.

"It's absolutely amazing - to have four world-class teams participating down here on a new surface is a privilege," said Du Toit.

"We'd love to see the community turn out in full force behind our local girls. I think people are in for a real treat."

A young Black Sticks team excelled in beating Korea 3-0 in the first Four Nations final in Whangarei last week, and should draw a large crowd considering the amount of homegrown talent on show.

Gemma Flynn, Rose Keddell and 21-year-old Sam Charlton - who captained the side in her 50th cap during the first tournament - are all among the squad to play the first international tournament at the new home of Western Bay of Plenty hockey.

"It's really fantastic to have Gemma, Sam and Rosie playing in this last leg. Hopefully they can progress through to the final on Sunday and have a win.

"Looking at the results from last weekend the teams are so closely matched. It's how they perform on the day that matters."

Despite yesterday's rain, Du Toit's team were making final preparations ahead of the weekend, including safety checks on grandstands and concreting work on the new electronic scoreboard.

He again paid tribute to the work of the various councils and funders who made the facility a reality, and was pleased Hockey New Zealand had the confidence to stage the final games of the Four Nations at the venue.

Tickets will be available on the gate but can be purchased through the Tauranga Hockey Association website, with 700 seated positions available on both days.

Tickets are more expensive on Sunday, but children under 5 years old will get in for free.

The second leg of the event will be of huge importance to a New Zealand side building in depth and confidence following a string of impressive results.

They beat India in a six-test home series in December and very nearly shocked Argentina in a five-test away series with a relatively inexperienced squad earlier this year.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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