HOW great it has been having some elite international sporting competition in town.

It's been brilliant to see all the people getting along, and taking the opportunity to see such athletes from around the world - and particularly great for women's sport, showcasing such athleticism and skill.

After playing a few games of social hockey recently I can definitely testify to how demanding it can be! Nearly killed me.

But the all-round physical skill demonstrated by the Black Sticks during the week has been awesome. The speed and agility, the fitness required for the repeated length of field sprints, and the power and brilliant stick skills as demonstrated with Stacey Michelsen's sizzling reverse stick goal against the Irish on Tuesday.


A big congratulations to the organisers behind the event - there must have been a massive amount of work involved, and even the original vision to dream that bringing such an event to Hawke's Bay was possible. Sometimes it can be pretty easy to cruise along with the status quo, so to bring something new to the region, and as big and bold as this is a great achievement.

It was especially cool to see all the young kids waiting around after the game to get signatures from their newfound heroes; the inspiring impact on the kids was obvious, which must have been heart-warming for the organisers and further reward for their efforts.

As well as the game itself, with all its physical prowess on display, it was great for the kids to also witness up close the team spirit. The joy that comes with being part of a team, as the Black Sticks warmed down and chatted excitedly about the game - a glimpse into the community and positive social cohesion that can be generated from sport at all levels.

Whether it was through good management or good luck I don't know, but kids' hockey is about to start in a few weeks' time, so that's a great chance to encourage the young (and old!) to get into it and have a go.

There is a bit of bravery required with the hard sticks and balls - which is a challenge and great development in itself - but it is definitely great for all-round fitness, skills, and just being part of a team.

And as a reminder to all us grown-ups as we get into kids' winter sport, the most important thing is that they are having fun - and if they are having fun, they will tend to be at their best anyway, and more importantly they will be back again next week, and next year!

Hopefully the Festival of Hockey is an event that will carry on for many years, and the community will continue to support it along with other such activities, taking the opportunity to help make it something bigger and better for the future, something that is a major fixture on the New Zealand calendar, and that our region can be proud of and oh yeah, GO the Black Sticks in the finals this weekend!

Marcus Agnew leads Talent Development and the Pathway to Podium for Sport Hawke's Bay. He is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.