It didn't take long for new coach Colin Batch to leave his
mark on the New Zealand men's hockey team.
The Australian has been in the job for only three weeks but
today (Thur) ushered in a new era with eight changes for next
month's Champions Trophy in Melbourne, including three
debutants and another who has played only one test, from the
16 who played at the London Olympics.
No one has officially retired following the disappointing
Olympic campaign but there are doubts around the futures of
Ryan Archibald and Blair Hilton, who both made themselves
unavailable for the Champions Trophy.
Goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex and defender Brad Shaw are also
unavailable because of impending fatherhood and Andy Hayward
for work commitments, while Richard Petherick picked up an
injury recently while playing in the Netherlands.
Regardless, Batch wanted to hand opportunities to the next
generation of internationals and warned some of the older
hands they risked not being picked if they didn't commit to
the programme. Sights aren't totally trained on Rio in 2016
but will play a large role in Batch's thinking.
"What I want is for everyone to be fully committed to the
training programme we put in place and be available to play
for New Zealand when required," said Batch, who took over
from Shane McLeod. "We understand at the end of an Olympic
cycle, players have given up a lot.
"My view has always been that, if you make yourself
unavailable, whoever takes your place can outperform you.
Every time you make yourself unavailable there's a risk you
may not get selected in the future. I have explained that to
the senior group and will do it again."
There are still a number with considerable experience,
including captain Dean Couzins (260 caps), Phil Burrows (286)
and Blair Hopping (258). There are five others in the
18-strong squad with more than 100 caps but nine are aged 23
Debutants Jacob Smith, Alex Shaw and goalkeeper Devon
Manchester fit into that category along with one-cap
goalkeeper Hamish McGregor.
"We had a disappointing Olympic campaign so the natural
evolution of a team is we need to bring our younger players
through," Batch said. "We believe we have a good youth
programme and want to introduce those players into the
"It's quite an exciting time for New Zealand hockey and hope
to do well at the Champions Trophy. We know it will be
difficult but it's a good time to have a newer look to the
team. A few players unlucky to miss Olympic selection will be
part of the team going forward, and we hope to develop them
so we are a consistently top-four team."
New Zealand, ranked sixth in the world, finished fourth at
last year's Champions Trophy in Auckland but were a
disappointing ninth in London.
A top-five finish would ensure qualification for the 2014
Champions Trophy but preparations have been far from ideal.
Along with the changes, a number of players are still playing
club hockey in Europe and won't return until next Wednesday,
limiting the amount Batch can do with the squad.
They open their Champions Trophy campaign against Olympic
gold medallists Germany and also meet England (ranked fourth)
and India (11th) in their pool. Australia, the Netherlands,
Belgium and Pakistan are in Pool B and quarter-final
match-ups will be determined by the teams' placing after the
pool games (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3).
New Zealand squad for the Champions Trophy hockey tournament
in Melbourne from December 1-9: James Coughlan (North
Harbour), Nick Haig (Canterbury), Simon Child (Auckland),
Blair Hopping (Midlands), Dean Couzins (c - Auckland), Jacob
Smith (Capital), Hamish McGregor (Southern), Phil Burrows
(Auckland), Alex Shaw (Auckland), Devon Manchester
(Auckland), Blair Tarrant (Southern), Arun Panchia
(Auckland), Shea McAleese (Central), Matt L'Huillier
(Capital), Stephen Jenness (Capital), Hugo Inglis (Southern),
Steve Edwards (North Harbour), Nick Wilson (Central).
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