Hockey: Straight to action for new coach

By Terry Maddaford

Colin Batch excelled as the Belgium men's coach. Picture / Natalie Slade
Colin Batch excelled as the Belgium men's coach. Picture / Natalie Slade

Colin Batch's first trip as Black Sticks men's hockey coach will be to Melbourne, the city of his birth, for next month's Champions Trophy.

Before that he will have to select the team following an Olympic campaign which came up short of some expectations and led to some players stepping away, temporarily at least, from the international scene.

Batch has moved from Belgium, where he coached their national men's team from 2010, and will have little time to settle on the 18 players he will take to Melbourne for the December 1-9 tournament.

There are obvious pluses for Batch in taking up a four-year contract with Hockey NZ.

"I was fully committed to Belgium. There was a process in place which could have given me four more years in Belgium but then this opportunity came along," said Batch.

"It was general knowledge that Shane McLeod was finishing with the New Zealand team after the Olympics and that the job was to be advertised.

"Obviously, I was interested and I thought there were good structures in place here. Also, my partner Linda did not have the opportunity to work fulltime in Belgium which was another consideration."

"I grew up in Melbourne and have children in Perth," said Batch. "Being based here is definitely closer to home."

Batch is well aware of the standard of the game in New Zealand having watched the Black Sticks first hand on a number of occasions.

"When you are head coach of any team you take a close interest in all teams you are likely to come up against. In February last year I had the Belgium team here for a series of matches."

In three tests, in Whangarei and Auckland, Belgium won two and lost one.

"New Zealand has an attitude to their sport which is very similar to Australia. I am very excited at the challenge although it has been a hectic struggle to pack up and get here."

Batch is the latest in a long list of recent Australian recruits by the national and regional bodies.

Mark Hager coaches the Black Sticks women, Toni Cumpston is Hockey New Zealand's high performance manager, Ian Hicks their performance analyst, Sean Dancer heads the programme in Wellington and is one of the national men's team assistant coaches while Jason Butch oversees the coaching programme at Auckland Hockey.

Batch and Hager were members of the 1986 Australian team who won the World Cup for the first time.

"I am not surprised Mark has been so successful. I have observed what he has been doing from a distance and know just how good he is."

Batch has had discussions with McLeod and his assistant Darren Smith in his attempt to get a clearer picture of where the team is at after the Olympics.

"Their input has been very important given the short lead-in time we have," said Dancer who confirmed Smith will go to Melbourne as his assistant - a role he wants Smith to continue.

"I have also had brief discussions with some players. Six were playing in a match in Holland recently and it was good to meet Richard Petherick, Shea McAleese, Phil Burrows, Steve Edwards, Nick Wilson and Simon Child afterwards."

The 18-man touring party will be named next week and will have a brief camp here before departing. The six players who Batch saw in Europe are available and will be back here shortly.


Colin Batch

Born: March 27, 1958 Melbourne

Represented Australia: 1979-1990, 175 games, 100 goals

Honours (playing): Gold 1986 World Cup, gold Champions Trophy (four times)

Honours (assistant coach Australian team 2001-2008): Gold, 2004 Athens Olympics; 2002-2006 Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy 2005, 2008

Honours (Belgium coach, 2010-2012): Gold Champions Challenge 2011

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 16 Sep 2014 15:42:39 Processing Time: 518ms