Sticks set Bay on a quest for best

The success of the women's Black Sticks at the London Olympics bodes well for Hawke's Bay's attempts to secure an annual eight nations women's hockey tournament, Sports Park Trust deputy chairman Rex Graham says.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park Trust are in discussions with Hockey NZ over hosting rights and intend the tournament to take place at Sports Park Hawke's Bay following construction of a $3.4 million international hockey facility.

Construction of any hockey facilities remains subject to funding, including $2 million from Hawke's Bay Regional Council which is conditional on agreement being reached among regional hockey and local body interests.

"We are in regular contact with Hockey NZ," Graham said. "The feedback we get is that the Black Sticks' success has raised the profile of New Zealand internationally and makes it easier for us to attract top ranking countries to a tournament. They are a gutsy group of girls, their skill levels are great and I am sure we would get widespread support from the Hawke's Bay community if we can put the tournament together."

The facility would be the only one in New Zealand capable of hosting such events and Mr Graham said the trust was negotiating a multi-year agreement with Hockey NZ.

"While we need an extra turf in Hawke's Bay to cope with player growth, a facility that can host internationals at this level requires an additional $1.5 million. If we are spending the extra, we need to be sure we have the tournament for several years."

The new facility would incorporate a blue turf surface, the same as that used for the London Olympics and would comprise a full playing turf and practice half turf, a 400-seat grandstand, media and player facilities and lighting enabling televised evening matches.

Hawke's Bay Hockey Artificial Surface Trust chairman Neil Edmundson, who has been critical of the proposal, is also continuing research into hockey turfs and facilities.

He left for London last week for the inaugural International Masters World Cup tournament and said he would take the opportunity to research turfs and facilities.

Edmundson, who captains the 50-year age group team, is one of three Hawke's Bay players selected to represent New Zealand at the tournament in Kent, England. Malcolm Sutherland and Phil Teague compete in the 45-year team, which Sutherland captains.

"I'll be playing against and meeting with a large group of players who are hockey administrators around the world, so it will be a valuable opportunity to research trends in turf development and facilities," Edmundson said. "Places we can learn from are those that operate regional hockey facilities rather than the Europeans who have a club structure and different needs to those of Hawke's Bay."

He said there would be a large contingent of players from throughout Australia, where smaller centres of hockey excellence face similar development demands and funding challenges as those of Hawke's Bay, along with New Zealand teammates, who would provide an update on latest facility upgrade proposals.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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