Youthful look for Black Sticks at Azlan Shah

By Hockey NZ

Vantage Black Sticks Mens head coach Darren Smith has named an exciting team to compete at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia later this month.

The invitational tournament runs from 27 April - 6 May and sees New Zealand go up against hosts Malaysia, Australia, Great Britain, India and Japan.

The team of 18 sees the return of Rio Olympian Hayden Phillips and North Harbour midfielder George Muir from long term injuries.

It will be the first international competition since the Olympics for Phillips who has been sidelined with a foot injury, while Muir last played at the 2016 Ford National Hockey League before undergoing shoulder surgery.

"It feels great to be back. After watching a lot of hockey over the last six months I have built a lot of passion and hunger to get back on the field," Muir said of his return.

"Im excited to be back in black playing for New Zealand again, its been a long time between test matches so I cant wait to get to Malaysia and into tournament mode."

Experienced defender Arun Panchia will again captain the side, having done so during the recent test series against Pakistan in Wellington and Wairarapa.

Several players were ruled out of selection with injury, including Simon Child, Nick Haig and Brad Read while James Coughlan is unavailable with work commitments. Others still have club commitments in the Belgium and Dutch leagues, which are now approaching the playoff stages.

Smith said while the team is light on experience, its a great opportunity for the group that played against Pakistan to step up and signal their intentions.

"We would have liked to take away a more experienced group, but unfortunately there are a lot of players either unavailable or injured," he said.

"Many of these guys saw playing time during the Pakistan series and I thought they performed well, although this will be another big step up for them."

The Vantage Black Sticks leave on Friday 21 April ahead of their opening match on Saturday 29 April.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Hockey NZ

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