Hockey: Black Sticks coach bugged by illness

By Daniel Richardson

Olivia Merry recovered from illness to play yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown
Olivia Merry recovered from illness to play yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown

Women's Black Sticks coach Mark Hager will be hoping he doesn't wake up to the news that another one of his players has fallen ill today.

Throughout this week at the Oceania Cup in Stratford, Hager has had to deal with a player missing from each game as a stomach bug moved through the camp. Samantha Chartlon was absent from the 3-2 win over Australia in pool play on Wednesday, while Olivia Merry sat out the 25-0 romp over Papua New Guinea the following day and veteran defender Emily Naylor was scratched during yesterday's 26-0 victory over Samoa.

"We've had a bit of sickness all week," Hager said. "Each day you wake up thinking 'who's next?' Hopefully it's cleared the group and it's moved on ... It seems to be like a 24-hour bug and they're recovering pretty quickly."

The ill health in the side hasn't showed on the scoreboard though, as the Black Sticks head in to today's decider against the Hockeyroos yet to taste defeat at the four-team tournament.

They registered a massive win over Samoa yesterday where 12 different players scored goals, including four to Merry and hat-tricks to Anita Punt, Rose Keddell, Gemma Flynn and Julia King.

The game was little more than a training run and the Black Sticks used a majority of their penalty corners to try and run different plays.

Assistant coach Greg Nicol was given the head coaching reins against Samoa, which allowed Hager to watch the game from a different perspective.

Hager said compared to Thursday's win against Australia, they would need to find another level in this afternoon's final.

"I don't know if we go in really confident," Hager said. "They'll pick up from where they were the other day and we have to match it as well. So we have to raise the bar, knowing that they will as well." Australia beat Papua New Guinea 26-0 yesterday to confirm their berth in the final.

On the men's side of the draw, New Zealand will - as expected - meet Australia in the final this evening. The men's Black Sticks moved into the decider with a 25-0 win over Samoa yesterday, while Australia breezed past Papua New Guinea 16-0. Following today's final, neither Australia or New Zealand will play again this year with January's World League finals the next tournament.

Australia forward Jamie Dwyer said they didn't want their last game of 2013 to be a loss: "We've got three weeks off after this where ever you go in your home states and you just want to relax before we get stuck in to training again in December," the 34-year-old said. "So it would be a bit of a sour feeling if we didn't play well [today]."

New Zealand lost 3-1 to Australia during pool play on Friday where they struggled to create enough links through the midfield but did enjoy strong periods on defence.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 23 Sep 2014 18:47:56 Processing Time: 1149ms