Two separate Black Sticks Women’s teams have been named ahead of the Four Nations Tournament being played against Argentina, Korea and the United States in New Zealand this April.
The back-to-back format means there are two identical rounds, which gives head coach Mark Hager the chance to expose players and fine tune selection decisions ahead of the World League 3 in June.
“We have a strong squad and some good young talent coming through – naming two teams means we can develop depth and look at who is playing consistently well throughout the tournament. We want players to really work hard to earn a spot in the team,” says Hager.
Stalwart Black Stick Kayla Sharland returns for the first time since the London Olympics and is looking forward to getting back on the turf.
“I’m really excited to be getting back into it. There have been lots of changes to the team since the Olympics so it is pleasing to see that they have been progressing so well – it’s just good to see a new bunch of players wanting to put their stamp on hockey in New Zealand,” says Sharland.
Working full time in Christchurch, Sharland started training on turf three weeks ago with other senior Canterbury male and female players under the guidance of Regional Talent Programme coach Chris Leslie.
After only just losing the series against world number two Argentina at the start of this month, the Black Sticks are keen to get a win on home soil.
“They will be wanting the win as much as us! Our goal is to play in both finals – it will be a good indicator to see how we are tracking ahead of the World League and to play some top quality teams,” says Hager.
Krystal Forgesson is unavailable for the second tournament due to work commitments.
There will be 16 games played in eight days in Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga from 10-21 April.
“We haven’t played in these cities since the Olympics so the girls are hoping that there will be a strong turn out and the crowd will really get behind us,” says Hager.
Following the Four Nations, the Black Sticks Women will play three matches against England before the World League in Amsterdam in June. The World League is the new qualification tournament for the 2014 World Cup and will be played in Amsterdam from 12-23 June.