Hockey: Black Sticks light on experience for Aussie series

By David Leggat

Nick Haig is one of only two players in the squad with more than 100 caps. Photo / Alan Gibson
Nick Haig is one of only two players in the squad with more than 100 caps. Photo / Alan Gibson

Several hundreds caps worth of experience will be missing when New Zealand tackle Australia in their transtasman men's hockey series in Auckland in November.

The inaugural year of the four-year deal for three days of double headers involving the national men's and women's teams is an ideal opportunity for development, but the world's eighth-ranked Black Sticks would surely like a greater number of their seasoned players involved for the launch of the series against the top-ranked Australians.

Several players, such as captain Simon Child, midfielders Shea McAleese and Ryan Archibald and attackers Hugo Inglis and Blair Hilton are absent for a range of reasons, including injury, taking a post-Rio Olympic break or playing commitments in Europe.

There are eight newcomers in the squad, which contains just two players, Canterbury defender Nick Haig (193 caps) and Capital attacker Stephen Jenness (164), with more than 100 international appearances.

Recently reappointed coach Colin Batch is looking on the bright side of the situation.

"This is a very fresh team but every player selected deserves to be there from what they have shown us over the past 12 months," he said.

"Following on from Rio it's the right time to explore and give some opportunities to younger players to see if they can step up to the challenge of reaching the level we believe they are capable of.

"For some of the guys, playing against the world's best side Australia will also be the perfect preparation for the Junior World Cup later this year."

Among the new players is Canterbury's David Brydon, who won the MVP at this year's national league, while North Harbour's Richard Joyce, who has won four caps, gets the first chance to cement a place as Devon Manchester's goalkeeping understudy, after the retirement of veteran Kyle Pontifex.

The New Zealand men's squad to face Australia in Auckland from November 17-20 is:
Martin Atkinson, Rob Creffier, Hayden Phillips (Central), Cory Bennett, James Coughlan, Richard Joyce (North Harbour), David Brydon, Nick Haig, Sam Newman, Dominic Lane (Canterbury), Stephen Jenness, Harry Miskimmin, Brad Read, Alex Shaw, Jacob Smith (Capital), Kim Kingstone, Devon Manchester (Auckland), Matt Rees-Gibbs, Leo Mitai-Wells, Nick Ross (Midlands).

- NZ Herald

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