Hockey Northland hit a winner when it held a fundraising dinner for Northland players heading to Rio in New Zealand's Olympic hockey squad - Stacey Michelsen, Brooke Neal and Shay Neal, with Ella Gunson also an honoured guest.

While Gunson has not been named in the official team, Northland Hockey wanted her to be part of the celebration to recognise her achievements at hockey's highest level.

Stacey Michelsen, Tracey Morris and Ella Gunson at the Rio-themed event.
Stacey Michelsen, Tracey Morris and Ella Gunson at the Rio-themed event.

Hockey Northland chairman Bill Shepherd said the association looked forward to Gunson becoming Hockey Northland's "Stephen Donald", who came in after a late call-up and won the Rugby World Cup for the All Blacks. Shepherd suggested Gunson does not go white-baiting and keeps her cellphone switched on.

Former Northland player and Black Stick Sandy Hitchcock (nee Bennett) was MC. She played in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics.


Anna Lawrence was guest speaker. A former Black Sticks captain with 165 caps to her name, she has been to two Olympic Games, two World Cups and two Champions Trophy's tournaments. Other former hockey Olympians were Ted Salmon, Shirley Blake representing Trevor Blake, Grant McLeod, Neil McLeod, and Trevor Manning, the two latter players part of the 1976 gold medal-winning hockey team.

Guests included NZ men's coach Colin Batch, and NZ women's coach Mark Hager. Hockey Northland has raised about $12,000 for the players.