Black Sticks invited to Champions Trophy

By Michael Brown

The New Zealand women's hockey side will contest the Champions Trophy for the fourth time in a row after an invitation to the next instalment in Argentina at the end of 2014.

The Black Sticks failed to qualify after a poor result in last year's Champions Trophy and were down to play at the second-tier Champions Challenge instead but received one of the two invitations for the eight-team tournament from the FIH. China will also play in the tournament starting at the end of November.

It has helped alleviate what was shaping as an extremely congested year in 2014. Previously they would have had to compete in the Champions Challenge, World Cup (assuming they qualify) and the Commonwealth Games in the space of three months.

"This is a pleasant surprise," coach Mark Hager said. "We were hopeful of getting an invitation given our ranking [of No 3] but you never count your chickens before they hatch.

"We can now plan our year with more certainty. I am very, very pleased. To be able to play the top-eight sides four times in a row is really beneficial for us and it also gives the girls a bit of a break after the Commonwealth Games."

The Black Sticks have two more major assignments this year. Next month they host Argentina, the US and Korea in two four nations tournaments and in June will play in round three of the World League in the Netherlands, which doubles as qualifying for next year's World Cup.

The women's version of the Champions Trophy was first contested in 1987 and became an annual event from 1999. It has gone back to a biannual event to fit in the World League.

- APNZ

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