Darren Smith knows New Zealand hockey inside out, as befitting a former international with over 200 caps.

Now he's got the chance to mould the men's Black Sticks, as he takes over the national coaching job from recently-resigned Colin Batch.

And Smith, 212 times a national team midfielder from 1995-2006, Smith has a clear idea of the playing style he wants to see.

"Hockey at the top end is incredibly competitive and what we need to do - and I don't think this is something that's not necessarily been done - but we've got to embrace playing like a Kiwi," he said yesterday.

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"Have that physicality, really go at the game. I reckon when you see our teams do that in different sports it feels good.

"I like it when our hockey team do that, a bit of blood and bone to how we play, a bit of oomph and go forward."

The men are ranked eighth and had to endure a shattering Olympic experience in Rio, when they conceded three goals in the last five minutes to lose their quarter-final to Germany.

Smith is determined New Zealand remain relevant at major tournaments.

"Particularly with the good playing numbers in New Zealand, we want our two national teams right at the forefront so you see those crunchy games at the business end of tournaments. We need to be in amongst it at the World Cup next year, and in Tokyo (2020 Olympics)."

Smith is contracted until Tokyo. New Zealand's first significant assignment is the World League semifinal in Johannesburg in July. Before that there's a home series against Pakistan next month, the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia in late April and the prospect of a couple of other series which are in the pipeline.