It is not just in the junior age groups that hockey is booming in the Western Bay. The sight of four Masters age group teams at Tauranga Airport on Saturday en route to Nelson for the national tourney was indicative.

The week-long event, which began yesterday and runs through to Saturday, is the largest national tournament on the Hockey New Zealand calendar, involving 1000 players and 69 teams from ages 35-plus for women and 40-plus for men.

Tauranga has sent three women's teams and one men's team to Nelson.

Geoff Williamson from the Tauranga Masters committee said the rise in player numbers was very positive.


"Historically our older women's 55s team has won just about every year for the last 17 years. We have slowly developed more and more teams," he said.

"We started with a 45s side three years ago and then we had enough to make a 50s side so we have ended up with 40s, 45s and 50s women's sides and the newer teams are starting to get places. They are not beginners at it, they are getting solid and used to playing together.

"This is the first time we have pulled out a men's side in a number of years and we have quite a strong side but we don't know until we get there."

Williamson said the rising numbers in the older age groups was a good sign for the game.

"It is a case of getting more of the older people back who are getting involved with their experience, helping with training and the association. It is one of the few sports that is really growing in New Zealand.

"Now we have two very good water turfs and we are programmed to get another one in 2017. The amount we are growing we are struggling already to get enough turf time because they are always used.

"What we are trying to do is get the people who have played hockey to realise it is not the sport we used to have. You are on a fantastic surface and it is way safer and way faster, plus it is way more fun."