Hockey: Olympians opt out of selection

By Terry Maddaford

Melody Cooper. Photo / Natalie Slade
Melody Cooper. Photo / Natalie Slade

Olympians Cath Finlayson, Clarissa Eshuis and Melody Cooper along with national squad member Lucy Talbot have opted out of selection in the 35-strong wider national hockey squad and will have to take their chances if they are to rekindle their international careers in 2014.

In announcing the squad for trials next month, Black Sticks coach Mark Hager has also excused four of his most experienced players.

Kayla Sharland, Emily Naylor, Krystal Forgesson and Bianca Russell are taking a well-earned break but Hager insists they will need to rejoin the squad in February-March next year ahead of a hoped-for home tournament.

Also missing from the November 14-18 trials will be Olympians Charlotte and Sam Harrison, Ella Gunson and Stacey Michelsen, who are playing club hockey in Europe.

"They know by not coming back for the trials they are putting their chances of selection at risk," Hager said.

"The trials will give us a chance to look closely at the younger players coming through. We are keen to build a lot more depth in the squad and from what we saw at the NHL, we are excited by this talent."

While gratefully accepting the chance to have a break, co-captain Kayla Sharland, the outstanding New Zealand player at the Olympics, said the near miss at London was the incentive to continue.

"I have really enjoyed being part of the group," Sharland said. "I want to continue being part of the team in the future. I think they are exciting times."

Like the national men's squad coach, Colin Batch, Hager has a wealth of experience to call on even if he does not have the same number of caps in his squad.

Batch has three players with 200-plus caps and 11 who have played 100 or more games, while Hager has just Emily Naylor (203) and six other players with 100 or more caps.

Fourteen of the wider squad, including five from the National Hockey League-winning Canterbury side, are uncapped.

Women's wider squad

Goalkeepers: Amelia Gibson (11 caps), Elizabeth Gifford (0), Bianca Russell (48), Sally Rutherford (32).

Defenders: Sam Charlton (36), Sophie Devine (36), Holly Gaskin (0), Ella Gunson (84), Kathryn Henry (0), Danielle Jones (3), Alana Millington (42), Belinda Smith (0), Jenny Storey (0).

Midfielders: Bridget Blackwood (17), Gemma Flynn (119), Krystal Forgesson (168), Jordan Grant (0), Pippa Hayward (0), Rosie Keddell (0), Stacey Michelsen (109), Emily Naylor (203), Anita Punt (103), Aniwaka Roberts (0), Kayla Sharland (176).

Strikers: Michaela Curtis (0), Rhiannon Dennison (14), Sian Fremaux (0), Katie Glynn (93), Charlotte Harrison (163), Sam Harrison (93), Julia King (23), Olivia Marry (0), Carli Michelsen (0), Petrea Webster (18), Anna Wetherall (0).

- NZ Herald

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