See future Olympic hockey stars in action

By Jonathan Dine

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ACTION AHEAD: Black Sticks Kirsten Pearce is pictured playing against Australia last year.PHOTO/FILE
ACTION AHEAD: Black Sticks Kirsten Pearce is pictured playing against Australia last year.PHOTO/FILE

If you want to see future Olympic stars then head to this year's Hawke's Bay Festival of Hockey.

The third annual festival will almost double the number of teams competing from last year.

Event creator Bruce Mactaggart said at least 42 teams would be competing in four tournaments during the festival which runs from April 2 to 10. This was up from 25 last year.

A major addition this year is the Oceania round one of the FIH World League.

However, the Hawke's Bay Cup remains the most coveted crown with eight international teams confirmed to play. Out of these eight teams, six have qualified for the Rio Olympics this year.

Tournament director David Nancarrow was excited about the continual growth of the festival.

"It is extremely gratifying that, in this Olympic year Hawke's Bay has won the bid to hold the Oceania round of the World League 1."

He said it would add another dimension and extra colour to a festival which Mr Mactaggart described as the pre-eminent women's invitational in the world. He said the expansion showed the great state of the sport nationally as the profile of Black Sticks continued to rise.

Hockey in the region was also excelling, with five Hawke's Bay secondary schools in the top tier of the country. There will be 30 leading officials in world hockey controlling the games at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park and Park Island.

"The FIH (International Hockey Federation) has recognised that the tournament is of a very high standard and have encouraged its umpires to attend and hone their skills prior to Rio."

Mr Mactaggart said the economic benefit to the region was huge.

Last year's tournament lured huge numbers to the Bay.

Guest nights in Napier last April increased nearly 10 per cent from the corresponding time last year, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said April was a fantastic month for arrivals, helped by events in the region, such as the hockey festival.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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