He worked miracles with Ireland — now new Black Sticks women's coach Graham Shaw faces the big task of producing positive results on and off the field here.

Shaw guided the Ireland team that stunned the hockey world last year by making the World Cup final, losing to defending champions the Netherlands.

He took Irish hockey to a new high in a year that was one to forget for New Zealand Hockey, culminating in a review into bullying claims.

Shaw was named Irish Sports Manager of the Year ahead of Ireland's Grand Slam-winning rugby coach, Kiwi Joe Schmidt.


And while many in rugby circles were focused on whether Schmidt would be interested in coaching a certain New Zealand national team next year, Shaw had his eye on the Black Sticks role.

The Irishman said he had admired the Black Sticks from afar, impressed by their style of play, while moving to New Zealand was also appealing.

"It's a dream role for me to coach a team at the level that the Black Sticks are and an opportunity to live in your beautiful country," he told Radio Sport.

"It's something me and my wife talked about for many years if it ever arrived that I would try and grab it with both hands and I'm absolutely delighted to accept the role.

"They're a side I've admired for many years. When you're coaching in world hockey, there's a few sides you admire about their style, some of the players they have and how they approach the game, and I've always really enjoyed watching the Black Sticks.

Graham Shaw celebrates with Irish player Chloe Watkins after booking a spot in the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup final. Photo / Getty
Graham Shaw celebrates with Irish player Chloe Watkins after booking a spot in the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup final. Photo / Getty

"They play a really high-energy game and a lot of individual skill. They're a really exciting team to watch, so I'm just looking forward to getting down and working with these fantastic players."

Before his coaching career, Shaw was an accomplished player for Ireland, amassing 151 caps during 2001-10 and earning gold at the European B Championships in 2005 and 2009.

Shaw's tactical nous and knowledge of the European game might be the key for the Black Sticks to win the Olympic medal that has eluded them in seven previous campaigns.
The Netherlands and Great Britain are the world's top-ranked teams, with Germany fifth, one spot ahead of New Zealand. And all three have proven stumbling blocks for the Black Sticks at the two previous Olympic tournaments, when they finished fourth at London and Rio.


"My knowledge in and around the European style of teams that have been probably dominating there for the last few years is going to help me in the role," he said.

"I really enjoy the tactical side of it and set up teams to counteract the best teams in the world. I enjoy my job and I enjoy coaching and I'm going to bring a positive energy and a lot of enthusiasm to the role. I hope both the team and staff enjoy it."

Shaw is aware of the environment he's coming into. Hockey New Zealand went through a six-month review into a negative culture and claims of bullying within the women's side under former coach Mark Hager.

Former Australian international Hager, who now coaches Great Britain, accidentally sent an email to his entire team, naming and shaming individual players for their performance and effort after finishing 11th at the World Cup.

The review findings, revealed last month, showed that of 33 players interviewed, 24 reported "serious concerns" about the team environment.

The Irishman, who doesn't start his new position for another eight weeks when the Black Sticks take on the United States in Pennsylvania in the Pro League, wants to create a good environment, with players keen to represent New Zealand.

"I wasn't part of it [the review] and I'm very much focused on the future and the future starts for me in May. "I'll come down and work really hard with the staff who are there and we can create a really good environment and get a team gelled together, be as cohesive as possible and look forward to representing their country. That's really important."