Tauranga's Frances Davies has fond memories of meeting Black Sticks players, her idols, when she was a child.
Now, Davies is a Black Stick player herself and yesterday she was one of 10 players visiting Malfroy School, helping to inspire the next generation of young hockey players.
"I love this, I remember when I was younger and I'd get involved with the Black Sticks when they came around, it was very inspiring. It's really cool to be able to give back to the students, get them out playing.
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"We all really loved [the welcome form the school] and really appreciated it. It's very warming and it's really cool how all the schools make us feel welcome."
In September, the Black Sticks women produced their most important result of the year. A 1-all draw with Australia was enough to win the Oceania Cup on goal difference and, most importantly, qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
This week is the first time the 25-strong squad has been back together and the first step in the preparation for their Olympic campaign.
The team will be in Rotorua for three days. They have a strong connection here as team manager Donna Keaney was involved with Rotorua hockey for 20 years as a coach.
"We're staying at a marae tonight and then out on the farm in Ngakuru tomorrow, at Donna's house, so that will be really cool and we're mountain biking tomorrow," Davies said.
Davies already has more than 70 caps for the Black Sticks at just 22 years of age and will likely play a crucial role in Tokyo. Last year, her efforts were recognised when she was named Junior Sportswoman of the Year at the Bay of Plenty Sports Awards.
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She said the build-up to the Olympics would be intense.
"We're pretty much starting now, just starting to get all our skills and working together. We have a few big tournaments coming up but it's probably our biggest year with the Olympics and wanting to medal on that stage."
Davies said there was no better feeling than upsetting the higher-ranked Australian side on their home turf to secure qualification.
"It was so cool, they're ranked No 2 in the world and we're No 6. It was pretty surreal and more of a relief as well because it's such a hard process to make the Olympics now.
"It's obviously my first Olympics so I'll go hard for the next year and I'm really excited. We just need to really get our basics right and work on all the little things to keep us consistent."
Malfroy School ESOL teacher Marilyn Downey, who is also heavily involved in hockey in Rotorua, said she and the children had been excited all day waiting for the team to arrive.
"I didn't sleep at all last night, I was so excited. We've never had anything like this before, ever. [The pupils] get to look at these top athletes and some of these kids have only just started playing."
She said visits from star players like this would inspire the children and help grow their love of the game.
"Some of these kids will go on further. We've got a whole lot of balls for them to sign and give to the kids - they'll sleep with them under their pillows no doubt. Hockey is always put down a bit so it's good to be building it up like this.
"We're absolutely grateful."
Downey had full confidence in the Women's Black Sticks for the Olympics.
"They'll win, definitely. We'll beat the Aussies of course, we've beaten them a few times now. I'm so excited."