IT'LL BE a momentous time today and, should she run on, the occasion isn't lost on hockey veteran Emily Naylor.

At 3.30pm, the Hawke's Bay defender will become the most-capped Black Sticks women's player in New Zealand.

"It'll be a pretty special game at the time but I don't usually get caught up with those things," says the 28-year-old with a laugh as she sits on the cusp of eclipsing Suzie Muirhead's record with 239 international matches.

That's because Naylor is more preoccupied with the collective - the Mark Hager-coached New Zealand team need to beat archrivals Australia today if they are to make the final of the inaugural Six Nations tournament in Hastings.


Anything shy of victory will mean Argentina and the green-and-gold outfit will play for the bragging rights tomorrow in a tourney which is part of the Hawke's Bay New Zealand Festival of Hockey.

South Korea, China and Japan are the other nations competing in the tourney which has turned out to be a stepping stone for the World Cup in the Netherlands from late next month.

Palmerston North-born Naylor, who lives with her partner and farmer, Harry Gaddum, in Kereru, is in a leadership group with captain Kayla Whitelock (nee Sharland) and Stacey Michelsen.

It will be an honour for her to overtake Muirhead, of Wellington.

"When I first started in 2004 I was only 18 years old and Suzie was my captain at the Athens Olympics," says the Central Mysticks representative of Muirhead who was three years older than her when she accomplished the feat.

"I always wanted to play for New Zealand and was really excited when I did but I didn't think about how many games I would play because I just enjoy playing them."

Naylor hastens to add there other players, such as Krystal Forgesson, who clocked 202 games here and it's just a matter of time before they will eventually break her record.

At 23, Gemma Flynn also has cleared the 150-game mark.

Enjoyment remains the common denominator for Naylor and she is aware age is creeping up on her but has no definitive plans on how many more years she intends to play and will reassess her situation at the end of each season.

"I'm getting older but I'm just 28. Some players go on to play when they are over 30 so we'll just see what happens this year and how the body holds."

Having a crop of younger players coming through puts New Zealand in a good place, something Naylor highlights is imperative as they share their experience in readiness for the changing of guards.

She says the Black Sticks don't make much fuss about personal milestones because it is a standard practice to acknowledge 50 or 100 games in anyone's career.

"We're lucky to be playing so many games each year.

"Maybe I'll celebrate in some way at the end of the tournament," she says, adding her parents, Sarah and Brian, of Palmerston North, brother Tom, 30, and sister Alice, 26, will be at the Unison Hockey Turf to watch her play today but elder brother Jack, 32, won't be able to make it.

No doubt winning today is vital for New Zealand who have lost to China and Argentina.

"I always love playing Australia because they are traditional rivals and our games are close," she says.

The Black Sticks last played their transtasman cousins last October in Stratford where the hosts lost.

The Asian nations haven't really pushed the Kiwis, bar China, but the physicality and speed of the Aussies will be a challenge.

"Both teams are pretty fast. I don't know who'll win if we put up sprinters but Anita Punt will be up there," Naylor says of the midfielder who chalked up 150 games this week at the festival.

New Zealand, Australia and South Korea are in the same pool at the World Cup in The Hague.

Australia have kept a cagey stance with the media, avoiding interviews despite extending "maybe" invites to their Napier hotel.

Conversely, Argentina have also been champions off the turf in the PR stakes.

Naylor reckons despite the rain this week, the newly-laid turf has held up well and shouldn't affect play.

In other last round of round-robin matches today, Korea play China at 11.30am and the South Americans will toy with Japan from 1.30pm.

Festival organisers are hoping to lure world No 1 the Netherlands and No 3 Great Britain to give the Six Nations more oomph.