At just 21, Samantha Harrison is suffering from burnout and it's a reason why she has been left out of the New Zealand women's hockey squad for 2013.
Harrison, younger sister of striker Charlotte who made her international debut as a schoolgirl, has played 93 times for the Black Sticks since her debut in 2009, but coach Mark Hager has omitted her from the 25-strong national squad named today and told her to find a way to enjoy hockey again.
She didn't match the standards of most of her teammates at the London Olympics, when the Black Sticks narrowly missed out on a medal, and will need to recapture her spark to make her way back into the team. She has been included in the national development squad and there is an expectation she will return to the Black Sticks at some point.
"We felt that Samantha probably didn't perform as well as we would have liked at the Olympic Games and I think that's due to a number of things, like tiredness,'' Hager said. "She was picked as a young kid, played a lot of hockey and became a little bit flat over time.
"We feel that it's probably best for her to sit in our development squad, take her out of the high-pressure environment and let her enjoy hockey again. Hopefully during next year's national hockey league she will come back better and stronger and break back into our group heading towards the World Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2014.''
Hager has communicated only by email with Harrison, who is taking a break in Europe, but will sit down with her on her return to New Zealand to work out a pathway back into the Black Sticks. Hager said Harrison took her demotion well.
"She was good,'' he said. "She understood the reasons. She's disappointed, as you would expect. I think a big plus for me is that Sam is prepared to be in the development squad. She's hasn't thrown in the towel and said I'm out of here. She wants to fight hard and that's really pleasing for us.''
Hager has ushered in a new era for the women's side. With one player having retired after London, three taking a year out and another four on leave until February, he needed to freshen the squad and eight new players were named today.
All eight are likely to get a run in next month's six-test series against India in New Zealand, including Year 13 student Cassandra Reid from Timaru, meaning the side for the India series is both young (average age 21) and inexperienced (average caps 39). Five of the eight are from Canterbury, who won this year's national hockey league.
"It's the start of a new four-year [Olympic] cycle so it's quite exciting,'' Hager said. "We have a lot of young players but we are in a better place than we were in 2009 when we had about seven players left from the [Beijing] Olympics. This time we have a really good core. That's probably why we have gone with the younger ones because we really want to fill the gaps and we know they can challenge the top players now.''
The Black Sticks, who are ranked third in the world after their London exploits, will take on world No 2 Argentina in February and Hager has asked Bianca Russell and Emily Naylor, who are both taking extended leave, to be available.
Kayla Sharland and Krystal Forgesson should be available for a quad series being organised for April also involving Argentina, Korea and probably the US.
New Zealand women's 2013 national hockey squad: Bridget Blackwood, Sam Charlton, Michaela Curtis, Sophie Devine, Gemma Flynn, Krystal Forgesson, Sian Fremaux, Amelia Gibson, Katie Glynn, Ella Gunson, Charlotte Harrison, Pippa Hayward, Rose Keddell, Julia King, Olivia Merry, Stacey Michelsen, Emily Naylor, Anita Punt, Cassandra Reid, Aniwaka Roberts, Bianca Russell, Sally Rutherford, Kayla Sharland, Jenny Storey, Petrea Webster.
New Zealand women's hockey squad to play India in a six-test series from December 8-15: Sam Charlton, Michaela Curtis, Gemma Flynn, Sian Fremaux, Amelia Gibson, Katie Glynn, Ella Gunson, Charlotte Harrison, Pippa Hayward, Rose Keddell, Julia King, Olivia Merry, Stacey Michelsen, Anita Punt, Cassandra Reid, Aniwaka Roberts, Sally Rutherford, Jenny Storey, Petrea Webster, Georgia Barnett.
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael