Hockey: NZ teams face a single vital game

By David Leggat

The top three placegetters advance to the World League finals - in Tucuman, Argentina, for the women in November-December.  Photo / APN
The top three placegetters advance to the World League finals - in Tucuman, Argentina, for the women in November-December. Photo / APN

New Zealand are about to contest two tournaments in which they can lose all three pool games, and still win the events.

Confused? You're not alone, but that's the process in place for the two Black Sticks teams when they compete in the World League 3 tournament in Rotterdam next month.

The key for teams will be the fourth game they play. All eight teams in each event will go into quarter-finals using the crossover system, wherein the winners of pool A play the fourth-placed finishers in pool B.

The top three placegetters advance to the World League finals - in Tucuman, Argentina, for the women in November-December, and in Delhi for the men in January.

There's scope for an upset or two in Rotterdam and the attached risk of a team stealing a win in a one-off situation. Women's coach Mark Hager has reservations about the system.

"It's not a competition I totally agree with, but the bottom line is you've just got to win," he said.

The risk is players might feel the lifeline that game four brings could reduce the game-by-game intensity.

However Hager and men's coach Colin Batch are relaxed on that issue.

"We're international players, we're competitors and want to do as well as we can in each game," Batch said.

"We can turn that around quite easily. You focus on certain processes we want in place and if you're doing them consistently, results will follow."

Hager reckons it's more a matter for the coaches to be wary of than the players. "In the end, the quarter-final is the one match that means everything," he said.

"You want to play well so you keep momentum going but in the end, realistically, if we didn't win our first three we'd be saying to the girls, 'You know what, this game matters, it's just one game."'

The women fly to England on Saturday. They have three warm-up games against the English and a practice game against Japan once they reach Rotterdam.

A 19th player will travel with the group, Auckland midfielder Danielle Jones, to cover a couple of soft tissue injuries to Julia King and Cass Reid.

The men leave a day later and have two internationals against Spain, probably in Madrid, en route.

The tournaments start on June 13.


What lies ahead

* The men's Black Sticks (ranked No6) will play the Netherlands (3), Ireland (15) and India (11) in their World League 3 (semifinal) pool.

* The women's Black Sticks (3) face India (12), Germany (5) and Belgium (13) in their pool.

* The top three in each tournament in Rotterdam next month are guaranteed a place in the finals.

- NZ Herald

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