One of New Zealand's longest seriving Black Sticks has gone into bat for Central Hockey as Hockey New Zealand looks to reduce its regions from eight to six.
Newly-appointed Hockey Wanganui chief executive Robyn Matthews said the outcome of a Hockey New Zealand strategy review had proposed reducing the regions to align with High Performance centres meaning central and Northland would miss out.
Matthews is the longest serving Black Stick playing between 1985 and 2000 and was the first women to reach 150 test caps. Matthews also played for Central and still has links as a coach of Central Region teams.
"This proposal has come out of left field and is based on funding regions aligned with High Performance centres," Matthews said.
A Hockey New Zealand document describing the proposal said the aim was to have regional performance centres, linked with associations, which would be joint-funded by the regions, Hockey NZ and High Performance Sport New Zealand.
Age-group tournaments from under-13s to under-17s would be based on associations. But under-19s, under-21s and National Hockey League tournaments would all be centred on the six high-performance centre regions.
Nine associations fall under the Central Region umbrella, including Whanganui and ironically just last year Hockey New Zealand awarded Central a trophy for recording the largest growth in the country in 2016. Central recorded a 28 per cent growth, while Taranaki and Whanganui were the second and third highest. Both, of course fall under Central.
"Central is the largest region and we are certainly doing our job providing a lot of up-and-coming players, aspiring coachges and even umpires," Matthews said.
"The recently-named under-21 squad features seven Central players with the next highest number coming from Canterbury with six and four coming from the likes of North Harbour, Auckland and Midlands. Central is strong in under-18 and under-20 divisions.
"All nine associations have made submissions to Hockey New Zealand to retain Central, even if the regions were reduced to seven,' Matthews said.