It's one thing to be born into a take-no-prisoners Aussie mentality but it's another thing to impart it to a group offshore.

So how do Australians Mark Hager and Sean Dancer see things when they are at the helm of the Vantage Black Sticks women's team?

Having lived in New Zealand since 2009, assistant coach Dancer says he and Hager's time here raises the expectation of becoming familiar with both nation's mentalities.

"But what's more interesting is they are very similar when you nail it down to both wanting to be successful and having the drive to play good, aggressive style of hockey - then what is probably frustrating for the Aussies is we've come from 1-nil down twice now to draw," says the Brisbanite who has been Hager's deputy since 2014.


"The Transtasman clash is an important factor for us because there's a bit emotion involved there and that's what we're about so we have to play those types of tough games but whatever happens on the field stays on it," says Dancer after conducting the turf symphony from the sidelines in the past two Hawke's Bay Cup games in Hastings while Hager has taken an observatory perch in the dugout.

"We always coach together so, at the end of the day, Mark's on the sideline and I'm in the tower with the headset," he explains before the Kiwis host Team USA at 5pm today at Unison Stadium after the Hockeyroos face Japan at 3pm in round six before tomorrow's playoffs.

However, while they have traded places Dancer emphasises he doesn't completely take over with his philosophy because Hager contributes as the game progresses.

"To me it's just a good opportunity to see the game differently - you know, how players react as things unfold on the sidelines so it becomes a big challenge for myself.

"On the flip side, it also gives Mark a different look at our game. He's removed from the sidelines and, maybe, some of that emotion going on in there and have a good look at the overall structure."

Hager zeroes in on the attacking aspects while Dancer does the defence.

"Obviously we need to score goals but the first thing I'm looking at is are we structured well in defence, do we have a good counterattack, keeping shape and things like that."

The last two games have pleased Dancer, considering they adopt a front-foot stance but have to be mindful to recoil with some authority should they cough up possession cheaply.

"We're a younger and newish group so we're having a few ups and downs, which is evident by the way we're playing, and the sort of way some of the games have unfolded," he says.

It didn't miss the attention of the pair that the Sticks were recessive in the first half, scrappy overall and gifted the Aussies too many chances.

"In the second half we put things together quite nicely. We pressed much better and that was evident in the number of opportunities we created."

Returning veteran striker Samantha Harrison set the tournament alight on Thursday night with her 51st-minute 1-1 equaliser against the Hockeyroos.

The Transtasman rivals didn't stomach the stalemate too well with goalkeeper Ashlee Wells spitting the dummy after the game.

Dancer says despite Harrison's lob wedge-like finish, which curled almost in slow motion over Well's stick-armed outstretched hand, the passage of play leading to her shot was commendable.

"We actually moved the ball quite well down the pitch and attacked the circle.

"Even though it wasn't actually what was planned she [Harrison] was in the right spot, she had a good, low-body position and, up until that point, she was very good," he says, adding sometimes strikers can do with a bit of luck.

Dancer coached Braxgata club and administered the junior national programmes in Belgium since 2000 before shifting here to work, including with former Black Sticks men's coach, Shane McLeod, and South Africa-born Greg Nicol.

McLeod and Nicol were both academy coaches in Napier.

Dancer hastens to stress that he and Hager do not see themselves as assuming development roles.

"Obviously we have some younger players who are developing but we approach every game and tournament to be successful and we have to have high standards moving forward."

Because every team here have the propensity to improve and have done so incrementally since the cup tourney began two Fridays ago, Dancer says today's game against coach Janneke Schopman's USA will be treated as one against a quality outfit.

"They showed that against us in our first test match in Christchurch where they beat us 6-2 so we're certainly not taking them lightly, by any means."

He adheres to the adage that success creates success so instilling that winning habit is vital.

Defending the cup crown remains the goal although it isn't something the Kiwis have dwelled on in the past few days, says Dancer.

"Living in both countries and coaching in both countries, there's not a lot of difference.

"We play a similar type of game with an aggressive type of mind set that we want to be successful."

Dancer has played up to junior under-21 level of hockey but didn't represent Australia while Hager has, clinching an Olympic bronze medal.


Today, 3pm: Australia v Japan.
5pm: New Zealand v USA.

Tomorrow, 3pm: 3rd v 4th playoff.
5.15pm: 1st v 2nd playoff.


Rd 1: Australia 1 Team USA 1, Japan 2 New Zealand 1.

Rd 2: Japan 2 Team USA 1, Australia 1 New Zealand 1.

Rd 3: Australia 2 Japan 1, New Zealand 3 Team USA 2.

Rd 4: Australia 3 Team USA 1, New Zealand 1 Japan 0.

Rd 5: Japan 1 Team USA 4, Australia 1 Black Sticks 1.