Stacey Michelsen, who leads the Black Sticks against Australia in Thursday's Anzac hockey test, is on target to become New Zealand's most capped female player when the Pro League culminates in June.

Test hockey players don't do things by halves.

The 28-year-old Northlander, who lives in Auckland, will play her 271st test in the clash at North Harbour, putting her three short of Emily Gaddum's massive record.

The world-class veteran chats about her rise, departed coach Mark Hager, favourite moments, shootout tactics, her toughest opponents ... and reveals what she would love to change in hockey.


How important is the record to you?

It would be a proud moment. I didn't realise I was so close until New Zealand Hockey called to talk about it. I was a bit shocked.

Time goes so fast, we play a lot of games. The last 50 have flown by and we've had pretty special occasions within that, particularly Commonwealth Games gold last year.

What was your debut like?

I was 18, in 2009 ... it was a shocker for us in Whangarei, which was special, given it's my home town.

We had an incredible crowd — with a few of us from Whangarei on debut — but lost 7-3 to Argentina at a time when they were in their prime.

I was still very happy to play in front of a home crowd for the Black Sticks, I had been trying all my life to get to that point.

But I was also, not so much embarrassed, but disappointed it was such a big margin.


Hockey players rack up big numbers...

Between 2012 and 2016, we were playing close to 45 games a year. I loved it — the high number of games helped me develop as a player.

But there is another side — you have to be wary of how much the body can handle. Under the new Pro League system, it will be less.

Stacey Michelsen talks to her team mates in the huddle before kick off during the Pool D game between New Zealand and Belgium of the FIH Womens Hockey World Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Stacey Michelsen talks to her team mates in the huddle before kick off during the Pool D game between New Zealand and Belgium of the FIH Womens Hockey World Cup. Photo / Getty Images

What are your family hockey connections?

I had two older sisters and mum who played. We all played for Northland through the age groups.

I've played for Northland and the Junior Black Sticks with my sister Carli, which is special — you play well when you're with your sibling.

My family has been a massive part of my career, including all the practice we did when we were younger.

Northland has an affinity with hockey...

The number of Black Sticks, particularly in the women's programme, from Northland is incredible.

The Northland hockey community has so many people with expertise who are also willing to give their time, people like Grant McLeod, Bevan Gibbs, Angeline Waetford to name just a few.

We have such incredible support up there as younger players and it doesn't stop after that.

Childhood hero?

Anna Lawrence, an incredible player for the Black Sticks. I loved watching her, especially her work rate and skill. I was probably a ball kid for her at one stage.

I've met her quite a few times in recent years — I told her she was my favourite player, which was pretty cool. She smiled shyly ... she is really friendly, a lovely person.

Your career highlight is...?

Commonwealth Games gold. They aren't our pinnacle event, but we came away with the satisfaction of knowing we had achieved what we wanted to. That sticks out as the only time we've done that. There are other tournaments where we are proud of what we achieved but with disappointment over a game or two where we fell short.

The semifinal shootout win over England included your famous flick shot...

I had a one-track mind with shootouts when I was younger and elected to dribble more often than not. I had success with my first shootout in London (2012 Olympics) but then it took a turn for the worse and I needed a more open-minded approach.

The flick into the goal is pretty simple if you can get it away. You have to watch what the keeper does — each one is different.

Maddie Hinch (England keeper) moves around a lot, trying to put you off. I would normally dribble to my right and she did sit slightly to that side. That opened up a little bit of space on the left to flick it.

You are always trying to read each other.

Shootouts had been a problem until then...

Winning that was a huge mental boost for us. The incredible work Grace O'Hanlon did in goal that day helped us as a team and particularly myself. When you saw her making all these incredible saves — I was the last person to take the shootout and was inspired by her hard work, and knew I needed to do my job as well.

Stacey Michelsen celebrates after the win in the Women's Final between New Zealand and Australia during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker
Stacey Michelsen celebrates after the win in the Women's Final between New Zealand and Australia during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker

There has been recent controversy to endure, leading to coach Mark Hager's departure after a misdirected email was sent to players. How difficult has it been? Did it lead to divisions?

It was difficult given how long the review went on for.

As a group, we weren't distracted and recognised the importance of coming together for training and games.

Everyone did that, which impressed me. But we're looking forward to when it is behind us.

We're a close knit team. There were a lot of people not in the current squad who took part in the review, and those details I don't have.

I haven't focused on whether people did or didn't support Mark because that's not important now.

We've been focused on getting on with the job, because we've had to. We haven't done it perfectly — obviously the results have been up and down.

I certainly supported Mark and will always appreciate and treasure the years I was coached by him.

He's with Great Britain now ... I'm sure we will see an improvement from them under his guidance.

What does Graham Shaw, the new coach from Ireland, bring?

Sean Dancer, the assistant under Mark, is still taking us. There's a four-week training block after the Anzac game, and Graham Shaw will take over during that. It will be interesting to see his approach — everyone is open to changes.

There was an excellent victory over Australia last month but they are still higher ranked...

They've played more consistently through the Pro League. We've had some good performances but have been extremely inconsistent.

In the beginning, our problem was scoring. We've certainly improved as an attacking group but there are a lot of areas to work on.

Who have been your toughest team and individual opponents?

Holland are absolute class. I don't think we've beaten them since I've been involved. No one is close to them at the moment.

Argentina's Luciana Aymar was my favourite player from outside of New Zealand ... World Player of the Year eight times. I loved playing against her. It was a huge challenge because she was so incredible. Her elimination skills (attackers eliminating defenders) were better than anyone else's in the world.

Is there anything you would change in hockey?

Hockey is in a great position in terms of the style. I love the new rules.

Penalty corners are an interesting one — I'm not sure I'm a fan of them. Perhaps a penalty corner should be worth one point and a field goal worth two. That would be great.

They are quite dangerous and some teams in world hockey have success largely due to their penalty corner attack, which I don't agree with.

You will be admitted to the bar as a barrister and solicitor in July...

Mark Hager really encouraged me to continue my studies, gave me time off if I needed it for exams and encouraged me to get into the work force once I had finished my degree, which was huge.

It's easy when you're doing something as hard as high performance sport to let your other interests fall by the wayside. I'm super lucky to be doing both.

Outside interests ...

I quite enjoy just relaxing outside of hockey, which has a high workload.

I really enjoy cycling. My partner (world champion and Olympic silver medallist Sam Webster) is a cyclist. We can ride for anything up to two-and-a-half hours.

It's quite funny — we have such different training stimulus. His longest race is 42 seconds, while we are running around for two hours at training. We have very different styles on a ride. If we go up hills, I go hard at the start, while he does a steady pace and always catches me halfway.