Hockey: Four Black Sticks off to third Olympic Games

By David Leggat

Black Sticks captain Simon Child will lead the Black Sticks at the Olympics in Rio. Photograph by Andrew Warner.
Black Sticks captain Simon Child will lead the Black Sticks at the Olympics in Rio. Photograph by Andrew Warner.

New Zealand will field a squad with a blend of experience and youth for the Olympic men's hockey tournament in August.

The 16 players named today include four who will attend their third Olympics - captain Simon Child, fellow Aucklander Ryan Archibald, Canterbury defender Bradley Shaw and Central defender Shea McAleese.

At the other end of the scale, Levin 18-year-old Hayden Philips, on the back of just 11 international appearances, has won selection as part of the midfield picks. He has made a strong impact in his early days with the national team.

Four other players, strikers Hugo Inglis, Nick Wilson, Blair Hilton and Stephen Jenness, all played at the London Games four years ago.

Th goalkeeping job has gone to Auckland's Devon Manchester, who held off a solid challenge from veteran Kyle Pontifex.

''We have named our team early which gives us extra time to prepare and train together as a unit," coach Colin Batch said.

''I believe we are in a good position to accelerate our development, individually and as a team."

National champions Auckland are the most heavily represented in the squad, with four players. There are three apiece from Central and Southern, two from Capital and one each from Canterbury, North Harbour, Northland and Midlands.

New Zealand, ranked eighth in the world, kick off the tournament on the opening day of competition against world No 1 Australia in a crunch game.

The tournament will, for the first time, use a quarter-final format, the top four from each pool progressing.

The winners of the quarter-finals will then vie for the medals.

Batch said the improving depth and consistency across the game at the highest level means there will be no easy route to making the quarters.

"There will be tough competition in both pools. However I'm confident we can perform well and be a strong contender at the business end of the tournament."

The Black Sticks are aiming to add to their solitary Olympic medal in Rio, the gold won in Montreal in 1976.

New Zealand's women's squad, ranked fourth and rated a real medal chance, will be named late this month or early in July.

New Zealand men's hockey team for the Rio Olympics:
Goalkeeper: Devon Manchester (Auckland, 81 caps)
Defenders: Shea McAleese (Central, 225), Blair Tarrant (Southern, 148), Nic Woods (Midlands, 47), Kane Russell (Southern, 73), Bradley Shaw (Canterbury, 179).
Midfielders: Ryan Archibald (Auckland, 313), James Coughlan (North Harbour, 55), Arun Panchia (Auckland, 187), Hayden Phillips (Central, 11).
Strikers: Simon Child (Auckland, 260, c), Blair Hilton (Capital, 153), Hugo Inglis (Southern, 176), Stephen Jenness (Capital, 150), Shay Neal (Northland, 73), Nick Wilson (Central, 156).
Men's tournament pools:
Pool A: Australia (world No 1), Britain (4), Belgium (5), New Zealand (8), Spain (11), Brazil (32).
Pool B: Netherlands (2), Germany (3), Argentina (6), India (7), Ireland (12), Canada (14).

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