Not even Richie McCaw played 200 times for his country and Black Sticks veteran Ella Gunson still has more left in the tank.

A week ago in Christchurch, Whangārei-born national hockey star Gunson brought up her 200th appearance for her country against Germany in the FIH Pro League.

She joins 11n others who have made the coveted double-hundred club, and is one of the few Northlanders to do so.

Gunson joined the existing trio of Northland hockey 200 club members including Stacey Michelsen, who sits in excess of 250 caps, Charlotte Harrison, who moved from Northland to play for Auckland, and Suzie Muirhead, the first woman to break the 200 mark and also the one to present Gunson with her 200th cap in Christchurch.


"That was really special, that Northland connection," Gunson said.

"I'm very proud of Northland and I love that I come from Northland so that connection with Suzie meant a lot to me."

Ella Gunson stands with a sign made by friends to commemorate her 200th game. Angeline Waetford (left) , Caitlin McLean, Ella Gunson and Alana Laybourn. Photo / Supplied
Ella Gunson stands with a sign made by friends to commemorate her 200th game. Angeline Waetford (left) , Caitlin McLean, Ella Gunson and Alana Laybourn. Photo / Supplied

Despite losing to Germany in a tough, physical contest, the Maungakaramea club player said it was still a good feeling to make it to 200.

"When you lose a game it is never great, I guess I was disappointed in that not only was it my 200th, but I really wanted the team to win."

After a tough loss to China on Sunday, the side would continue their league campaign with games in March and April against Australia, Argentina and Spain.

The competition pauses over May before the team face the huge task of five games against five different teams in 19 days in June.

Making her debut for the national side as a 19-year-old in July 2009, Gunson admitted the thought of playing 200 times for the Black Sticks didn't enter her mind until much later into her career.

"It seems a long way away when you make your debut but as time goes on and we started playing more and more games, I started to hope I would get to 200."


After the 2012 London Olympic Games, the women's hockey calendar took a sharp incline with regular starters earning almost 50 caps in one year.

Gunson said not all years were so busy with most ranging between 20-40 games.

Despite her achievement, it had not always been smooth sailing for Gunson.

In 2013, she went to continue her Massey University nutrition degree in Boston in the United States for a year.

Coming back in 2014, she found herself out of the national side due to lack of fitness and subsequently, missed out on the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Gunson was able to turn this bitter blow into what she felt was the reason she had lasted so long at the top. ''

"That's what really helped me with my longevity because I had those two years out and it made me realise how much I loved hockey and how much I missed it, so I really wanted to get back in."

At the end of 2014, Gunson was welcomed back into the fold and was now eight years into her national career.

With a renewed faith in her love of hockey, Gunson was able to fully commit to what could be an unforgiving lifestyle.

"I had to know for sure I wanted it because it is quite hard at times, you do miss out on a lot of other things in your life, you're not building towards a career and your social time with friends and family is a lot less."

Over the years, Gunson had seen hockey change radically.

With the introduction of referrals and the change from halves to quarters, the pace of gameplay had quickened and penalties made more crucial.

The game had moved to become a fully professional sport in some countries.

Gunson was pleased with Hockey New Zealand's progress in paying its female players similar to the likes of Great Britain and the Netherlands, but there was more to be done.

"It sounds really greedy but we just need more money to be fully professional like the other teams around the world, which makes it a lot easier for the players and coaches."

This comes after Wednesday's announcement from Sir Owen Glenn, who froze his $1 million contribution to the Black Sticks women's hockey programme over the recent resignation of long-time women's coach Mark Hager.

Gunson was first picked by Hager as a 19-year-old and said she had a great personal relationship with the tough-as-nails coach who taught her to be a hard and smart player.

"He made me into a player who, when I am really tired and about to make a simple mistake, I think again and try to choose a better option, so he was a big influence."

With Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2018 and an Olympic Games in 2012 under her belt, the 29-year-old had her sights set on Tokyo 2020 as perhaps her swansong tournament after not making the playing squad for the Olympics in 2016.

"I'll stop playing as soon as I don't enjoy playing anymore but the fact that I didn't get to play in 2016 is another reason I am really motivated to get to Tokyo.

"I'll be old next year so it might be time to have a look at things, Tokyo might be the last be the last one for me if I can make."

Now, having faced her first Halberg Awards last night in which her side was a finalist in the team of the year category, a lot was unconfirmed for Gunson, but she knew one thing for certain when it came to her future.

"I've always known that I want to live in Northland and finish there.

"I love the way of life up there and I can't wait to be back playing with my club and be home again."