Hockey: A new Batch of Black Sticks

Devon Manchester has been named in the Black Sticks squad for the first time. Photo / Greg Bowker
Devon Manchester has been named in the Black Sticks squad for the first time. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand men's hockey coach Colin Batch has made it clear he's searching for the next group of Black Sticks as he looks to the 2016 Olympic Games.

Batch has selected eight new players including debutants Jacob Smith (Capital), Alex Shaw (Auckland) and goalkeeper Devon Manchester (Auckland) for next month's Champions Trophy to be held in Melbourne in December. Goalkeeper Hamish McGregor (Southern), who has one international test cap, also made the side that will once again be captained by Dean Couzins.

"There are a number of players who I believe need a shot - some just missed out on Olympic selection, others are younger players who I think have real talent and something to offer this side going forward," said Batch, who was head coach for Belgium at the London Olympics and previously assistant coach of Australia.

"There will be opportunities next year for other athletes to prove themselves. We will obviously continue to search and develop talent so we have players really pushing and competing for national selection," says Batch.

The team named for this year's Champions Trophy includes eight new players from the 16 who played at the Olympics - Blair Tarrant, Jacob Smith, Hamish McGregor, Devon Manchester, Alex Shaw, James Coughlan, Arun Panchia and Matt L'Huillier.

There is still plenty of experience with 11 having played at last year's Champions Trophy and five have more than 150 international test caps.

With a number of players competing in the European club season, and only returning to New Zealand on the 21 November, there will be just a short time spent together as a team before they depart.

"Ideally, we would have had a longer build-up but, because of the Olympics and the timing of the Champions Trophy with the European season, we will spend the week we have focussing on set pieces and team cohesion," Batch said.

The week after the team returns from Melbourne, the 2013 national squad of 25 players will be announced alongside a development squad of 10 players.

Ranked sixth, the Black Sticks will have to improve on their Olympic performance to have a chance of finishing in the top five at this tournament and qualifying for the next Champions Trophy in 2014.

They open their campaign against Olympic gold medallists Germany, before games against England (ranked fourth), India (11th) and a quarter-final. Australia, Netherlands, Belgium and Pakistan are in Pool B.

New Zealand squad for the Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Melbourne from December 1-9: James Coughlan (North Harbour), Nick Haig (Canterbury), Simon Child (Auckland), Blair Hopping (Midlands), Dean Couzins (c - Auckland), Jacob Smith (Capital), Hamish McGregor (Southern), Phil Burrows (Auckland), Alex Shaw (Auckland), Devon Manchester (Auckland), Blair Tarrant (Southern), Arun Panchia (Auckland), Shea McAleese (Central), Matt L'Huillier (Capital), Stephen Jenness (Capital), Hugo Inglis (Southern), Steve Edwards (North Harbour), Nick Wilson (Central).

- APNZ

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