- Video credit: Spark Sport/FIH
It doesn't matter how many times Tauranga's Rose Keddell represents New Zealand, her excitement for selection never wanes for the 193-cap Black Stick.
Vantage Black Sticks Women's coach Graham Shaw has named his first squad of his tenure as the national coach.
Keddell, an experienced Black Stick, is among the 19-squad team that will play five matches in the FIH Pro next month, beginning with a game against the United States in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on June 1 (NZT).
Shaw says it is always difficult to select a national squad.
"Every player trains hard on a daily basis and It is more difficult when you are selecting a squad for five away games after a week's training together.
"The USA and European tour will be very challenging but we are excited to be spending time together as a group. The players are really looking forward to going away on tour and facing the demands of international hockey. There are many exciting parts to playing in the FIH Pro League especially playing away in front of big crowds and testing ourselves against the very best in the world."
Keddell, 25, says it is "always exciting" to be selected to represent New Zealand in her sport and is looking forward to what's ahead for her and her teammates.
"You are always really grateful and privileged to be named in the team. It is something I will never take for granted."
The former Bethlehem College student is also excited about the make up of the Black Sticks squad.
"We have a lot of depth at the moment, our young players have really improved in the last six to eight months."
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An injury to Kelsey Smith has seen Keddell, an established defender, play in the midfield – a challenge she is relishing.
"It is good to be able to be forward a bit more as I get called back by my goalie for pushing up a bit. I want to continue to build my personal game in the midfield and contributing to the team overall. A lot of my personal goals are team goals.
"I want to improve as much as I can over the next couple of months and that involves anything I can possibly do to get there. It is always a hard building phase leading up to these events and it is exciting and that it is all the motivation you need."
The Black Sticks are sixth on the Pro League table with four wins and seven losses as they look for a path to next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo. Their simplest journey to Tokyo is to win the Oceania Cup in Australia in September, and if successful that would bring that added satisfaction of vanquishing the Aussies. If the Black Sticks do not lift the Oceania Cup, they will need to go through another qualification process that includes results from the Pro League.
"The major focus is building for the Oceania Cup," Keddell says.
"Playing Aussie is always such an exciting match. The pro league has been a see-saw battle with Australia and it means the Oceania Cup will be a good match up. Some years there is in a building phase, like after an Olympics or World Cup there is an influx of new players.
"I have really enjoyed the pro league, it has allowed us to play top teams in our own country. We don't often have the Dutch come out and play us. It is a real positive to bring hockey back home."
Black Sticks upcoming FIH Pro League fixtures (NZT)
v USA, June 1, United States.
v Germany, June 9, Germany.
v Netherlands, June 12, Netherlands.
v Belgium, June 16, Belgium.
v Great Britain, June 23, England.
Black Sticks women's squad and caps
Sam Charlton, 237.
Tarryn Davey, 48.
Frances Davies, 67.
Steph Dickins, 18.
Ella Gunson, 207.
Megan Hull, 15.
Brooke Neal, 161.
Rose Keddell, 193.
Olivia Merry, 216.
Stacey Michelsen, 271.
Alia Jaques, 7.
Grace O'Hanlon, 50.
Kirsten Pearce, 113.
Sally Rutherford, 179.
Olivia Shannon, 9.
Holly Pearson, 4.
Liz Thompson, 183.
Amy Robinson, 67.
Shiloh Gloyn, 84.