Former Australian international Colin Batch has been appointed head coach of the New Zealand men's hockey team, taking over from Shane McLeod who took the team during their disappointing London Olympics campaign.
Batch has been head coach of the Belgium men's team for the last two years, taking them from No 13 in the world rankings to No 8, and was assistant coach of the Australian men's team for eight years which included two successful Olympic campaigns. He played 175 internationals for Australia.
He will now lead the New Zealand men's programme to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
"I am very excited to be taking up the challenge of improving the Black Sticks' world ranking,'' he said. "I will enjoy working with new players and determining their strengths and weaknesses and developing their talent.
"This opportunity presented at the right time for me after having achieved much success within the Belgium hockey programmes; both club and national teams. I believe Hockey New Zealand chief executive] Hilary [Poole] has secured a dynamic high performance team, led by Toni Cumpston, for Hockey New Zealand and I am looking forward to bringing my strengths and international experience to the programme.
"While I will miss being based in Europe, I welcome the opportunity to be back closer to my home country, Australia. With both the New Zealand teams having Australian coaches, I am sure the good natured rivalry between Australia and New Zealand will continue.''
Poole said recruiting a coach of high calibre was a priority and there was strong national and international interest in the role, including several candidates from higher ranked programmes.
Batch will begin in the job in early November and is contracted until the end of 2016. His first assignment will be selecting the team for December's Champions Trophy in Melbourne. McLeod will assist with this transition before he relocates to Belgium to join his partner.
"Colin is going to be a huge asset,'' Poole said. "He has a wealth of hockey experience in various coaching roles, including being part of the gold medal winning Australian team at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Colin is known for his strong, calm leadership both on and off the field and for bringing a level of commitment, professionalism and success to the teams he coaches.
"We wanted to attract someone who had achieved results as a head coach, had worked in more than one high performance programme, had the ability to develop, lead and maintain a strong team culture - and Colin has all of these qualities and more.''