New Zealand are going to have to get used to being without their best player for the rest of this year.

Captain and world class attacker Simon Child missed the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia, which ended last weekend, and will be absent for the world league tournament in South Africa as he battles a hip injury picked up during the Indian Hockey League with his Delhi Wave Riders franchise earlier this year.

''Initially we just thought it was relatively minor,'' Black Sticks coach Darren Smith said today.

''He had an MRI scan in India and another back here and it's major.


''We've got to let the symptoms settle down and figure out what sort of rehab will happen, whether it's surgery or rest. It's just a time thing, but it's certainly six to nine months out.''

The eighth-ranked Black Sticks returned from Malaysia today, having finished fourth at the annual Azlan Shah, fielding an inexperienced outfit, with 10 players not having played in Malaysia, or been on an overseas trip with the senior squad before.

''We really missed him,'' Smith said of Child, 29, who has racked up 274 international appearances and a record 140 goals.

''Just his presence and working in with the boys. He's been around the block for a while, and brings unbelievable quality in terms of his playing ability. He's a big loss for us.''

New Zealand had an encouraging 1-1 draw with world No 2 Australia to start the tournament, lost 3-0 to India, beat Japan and hosts Malaysia, before losing to eventual winners Britain 3-2 and finally world No 6 India in a poor 4-0 defeat.

But Smith is upbeat about the experience.

''I wouldn't feel I was overly disappointed with any individuals, although there were times we didn't play particularly well. I'm quite positive with how the tour went.''

The absences of experienced Nick Haig, with a broken bone in his foot, and talented midfielder Hayden Phillips, who had an untimely ankle sprain didn't help, but both are expected to be fully fit and in contention for the next assignment, the world league tournament in Johannesburg in July.

Before that there's an eight-day camp on the Gold Coast, from May 30 at which Smith wants all players in contention for the world league to front up.

That includes eight players just back from European club commitments in Belgium and the Netherlands.

It is an experienced core of players, including Shea McAleese, Hugo Inglis, Jared Panchia, Blair Hilton, Marcus Child, Nic Woods, Blair Tarrant and Jacob Smith.

The trip will also be a chance to check out training and playing facilities for next year's Commonwealth Games.

The squad will be named tomorrow.