Hockey: New competition likely to ease jetlag for Black Sticks

By David Leggat

Black Sticks at Rio Olympics. Photo / Photosport
Black Sticks at Rio Olympics. Photo / Photosport

A new transtasman hockey initiative should guarantee the two Black Sticks teams high quality competition for the next four years, minus the lengthy travel.

Both Black Sticks teams, ranked fifth (women) and eighth, get plenty of international competition, but invariably it involves travel around the globe.

Starting on November 17, all four national sides will play three doubleheaders at Auckland's Lloyd Elsmore Park, with the same format to be repeated in Canberra next year, Auckland in 2018 and the Australian capital again the following year.

Australia's men, despite an ignominious quarter-final Olympic loss to the Netherlands, remain world No1 while the women have slipped one spot - as have their New Zealand rivals - to fourth in the wake of England's (officially called Britain at the Games) leap up the table to No2 on the strength of the Olympic gold medal triumph.

It's the first partnership of this kind between the New Zealand and Australian national bodies, and marks a significant milestone in a wider long-term partnership either side of the Tasman.

The teams met in the men's and women's Olympic tournaments in Rio, with contrasting fortunes. Australia won the men's clash, 1-0, but New Zealand dumped Australia 4-2 in the women's quarter-finals.

Hockey New Zealand high performance director Terry Evans said the event will provide fantastic development opportunities for the Black Sticks against world class opposition close to home.

"This is a huge development for Hockey New Zealand as we look to build an even closer relationship with our Australian counterparts on all levels," Evans said. "Having the opportunity to play an annual event gives our Black Sticks men and women amazing experience against two of the world's best teams as well as an unbeatable spectacle for fans.

"From a high performance perspective it's a rivalry which will help our teams get stronger and more confident the more we play them."

The women's match will be the curtain-raiser on November 17, but will be the main feature on the other two days, November 19 and 20.

Women's coach Mark Hager is contracted through until 2018 but men's mentor Colin Batch's contract ends this year. He is understood to be in talks with HNZ.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 Sep 2016 12:22:19 Processing Time: 473ms