NZ final agony at masters champs

By Jared Smith

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It was the barest margin of defeat possible for Whanganui hockey's Michelle Lowe at the World Masters Championship in Canberra earlier this month.

Lowe and her NZ Women's 45+ team played the tightest of finals with Australia, having drawn with them twice during pool play, and after the penalty shootout was also tied it came down to a final "sudden death" shootout before the home side would claim the crown 4-3.

Meanwhile, fellow Whanganui player Russell Burgess and his NZ Men's 55+ team were not as successful, having to settle for fifth in their bigger division of six teams, being the only New Zealand side not to medal in the eight divisions contested in Canberra.

Starting at Easter weekend with 10 days of games, the Women's 45+ grade was one of the smaller groupings with New Zealand facing Australia, the United States and South Africa.

Lowe said they were confident going into the competition with nine players who entered last year's transtasman masters series, with most of them having been team mates since their days in the NZ 35+ squad.

Playing each country twice, New Zealand comfortably dispatched USA (3-0, 7-0) and South Africa (5-0, 6-0) in their games, but could not shake the Australians with two 1-all draws, Lowe earning player of the game as a defender for the first of those matchups.

They topped the pool and met Australia again in the final, where once again the sides were deadlocked 1-all at fulltime.

"The final we should have won on the field - we had four shots on goal and they hit the posts," said Lowe.

The game then went to penalty shootouts, where individual players attack the goal one-on-one against the keeper, and again the sides were deadlocked 3-all after everyone had their turn.

That led to sudden death and the Kiwis were the first to miss after seven shots.

Burgess's New Zealand team did not have a good start to their tournament, losing to Scotland (2-1), Ireland (3-2) and England (2-0).

They rebounded with good wins over South Africa (4-0) and Wales (3-0), but were brought back to earth by a 10-1 hammering from Australia.

That put the Kiwis into the playoff for fifth, where they got a bit of payback by beating Ireland 2-1.

The older age grades of the World Masters will be held in Newcastle in May, with Whanganui's John Wilson and Mark Wilson, no relation, both selected for New Zealand.

After that, Lowe said players will have to trial in Auckland to be selected for the transtasman series being held in May of next year, which is the buildup to the next World Masters in Spain, 2018.

As masters players pay the expensive costs of travelling themselves, the Spanish tournament should have several more European teams make the journey at that time, such as Holland, Belgium and Germany, Lowe said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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