The Midlands women's hockey team may have missed out competing for a top place but Tauranga players are relishing the opportunity to play at home.
The week-long Ford NHL tournaments enter the play-off phase at Tauranga Hockey Centre today and Midlands were denied a place in the top four after finishing level with Northland and Central in pool play. Each team had a win, a shootout win and a shootout loss. Midlands were determined the lowest-ranked with an inferior goal differential to Northland and the shootout loss to Central sealed their fate.
It means they will be in the bottom half of the competition for the second phase, which begins against Southern this afternoon. While disappointed with the loss, Tauranga Black Stick Rose Keddell said it was great to be playing at home.
"It was a bit hard to take, the girls played really well and we were a bit unlucky. You have to win your games and not rely on things like that to win tournaments," Keddell says.
"I love the game and I love the team environment. I am hugely proud of playing for my region, this is where I started my hockey career.
"This week is all about coming back and playing for the region that put so much into my development and learning some things from different coaches and players. It is about enjoying playing and doing the best we can.
"It is such a great place for the tournament and I think the teams are really enjoying it."
Keddell helped the Black Sticks secure Olympic qualification two weeks ago as they won the Oceania Cup in Australia along with fellow Tauranga Black Sticks Amy Robinson, Frances Davies and Sam Charlton. The Black Sticks have been on limited duty for the NHL and Keddell says she hopes to play in today's game against Southern.
"The body is feeling fine, we had three games over there [Australia] and I have played tournament hockey my whole life, so I am pretty used to playing one game after the other. It is nice to be able to come back and be a part of it. I would love to play more regional stuff if the calendar allows, it is hugely important for development. You want to play, but you understand as well."
Keddell says she has enjoyed being in the Midlands set-up, a team that also includes former Black Stick Gemma McCaw.
"It is all hockey at the end of the day. We have played together growing up so there is a lot of familiar faces. When you are out there that hockey language is pretty universal."
Midlands will play Auckland on Friday before taking on Capital on Saturday and then play their classification match on Sunday.
The Midlands men's team lost their pool games against Canterbury, North Harbour and played Southern last night.
Ford NHL women's tournament"
Midlands vs Southern.
Wednesday, September 16.
Tauranga Hockey Centre, 1.45pm.