Hockey New Zealand bosses maintain they have not received an official complaint over the culture within the Black Sticks women's squad.

The issue surfaced this week in the wake of an email written by coach Mark Hager, critical of several players and which was intended for one pair of eyes in the support group but found its way to all players during the World Cup squad in London last month.

They received it shortly before their pivotal match against Japan, a game they were expected to win, given their fourth ranking compared to Japan's 12th.

Instead Japan won 2-1, a result which contributed significantly to New Zealand spiralling out of the tournament without even making the quarter-finals. Whether that email contributed to a poor display on the field can't be stated categorically, but it cannot have helped the mood in the camp.


The upshot is they have slipped from fourth to sixth on the world rankings and are now embroiled in a developing skirmish over events within the group.

Former goalkeeper Amelia Gibson voiced her concerns to both main television channels on Thursday night and HNZ will meet the sports players association on Monday to try and clear the air.

HNZ chief executive Ian Francis admitted he was "a little surprised" to see Gibson, who played 63 internationals until last year, appearing on television.

"Amelia last year made a complaint which was fully investigated and the matter was closed between both parties," Francis said. "No further actions were put in place as a result of that."

It appears there are two divergent camps within the Black Sticks squad - those who want to move on, and those who believe things need to change within the culture of the group.

Francis said Hager had acted swiftly when his email became public, apologised to the team, collectively and individually, and accepted full responsibility.

For all HNZ's insistence that they've had no red flags raised by players, that doesn't mean the players association haven't been made aware of concerns from other players. That is one aspect HNZ want to explore with the players association on Monday.

Former Australian star striker Hager, who is in his 10th year as national women's coach, is contracted until the end of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. He has been silent this week.


Francis said he has spoken to Hager "regularly" and "he has our support" but would not outline how the coach was handling the speculation.

"But it's safe to say it's been a tough week for the whole organisation."

Francis said the need was to "balance athletes' welfare with employees' rights". We've put a number of processes in place post Rio [Olympics in 2016], around support for the team.

"We are tracking in the right direction. We have some amazing athletes and coaches and have achieved some great success."

Where HNZ may be worried is the reference from players association executive manager Glen Sulzberger that they offered players the chance to make contact and discuss the issue and "a number of players have, past and present".

Sulzberger said it wasn't a case of demanding Hager's head; nor had there been any talk along those lines. It was more trying to ensure processes are in place moving forward.

"We don't have any pre-conceived ideas what we want to get out of the meeting. But we want to collaborate with HNZ on any potential solutions or if there is a need for adjustment in the environment," said Sulzberger.

No one from HPSNZ would talk about the issue yesterday, or the wider aspect of a fourth major sport now battling coach-athlete issues, after cycling sprint coach Anthony Peden's resignation in May amid claims of bullying, drinking and inappropriate relations with an athlete; New Zealand Football's drama over departed women's national team coach Andreas Heraf; and rowing's high performance boss Alan Cotter's shock resignation.