Black Sticks positive ahead of Aust match

Black Sticks Women’s captain Stacey Michelsen says her team has no fear ahead of its must-win World Cup pool match against rival Australia this weekend.

"I don’t think we have fear. We respect the opposition but I think for us it’s just about focusing on the way we want to play, hopefully we can play the way we played at the Commonwealth Games."

New Zealand beat the Hockeyroos in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games final in April to win the gold medal.

The result rankles across the ditch. The 4-1 scoreline is still very much in the mind of Australia captain Emily Smith.

"They obviously got the better of us at our home Comm Games. That was disappointing and a bit of heartbreak to swallow," Smith said.

"We need to get them one back."

Fighting talk from the Aussies indeed, not enough however to unsettle the Kiwis.

Black Sticks coach Mark Hager refused to be drawn into a war of words.

"We don’t go near it, it’s not in our culture or nature to get into banter with them," he said.

"We just concentrate on our game and make sure we do our job well and let the result take care of itself."

Games against Australia always carry special significance for  Hager. An Australian native who was capped 231 times by the Kookaburras, he gives no hint of irritation when asked the obvious question about this fixture. His response is always unequivocal.

"No, no. This is my team. We’ve been here ten years now and over the ten years we’ve coached against Australia, so it’s business as usual and making sure that we prepare the staff well and we get ready for the game.

"This is a team I’m really proud of and happy to be part of."

The mood in the camp is still buoyant despite a 2-1 defeat to Japan in the last pool match. It is a game Stacey Michelsen said the team is keen to move on from.

"I think everyone’s excited for the game. It’s been good to have a couple of days off to refresh after the Japan game and we’re looking forward to another challenge.

"One of our biggest focuses has been tightening up on our defence — we’ve let in a few more goals in the first couple of games than we would have liked to.

"We’ve also been focusing on just being more clinical in the attacking circle where our team create a lot of opportunities.

"If we can be a little more clinical and put goals away I think we’ll do well."

The match will be broadcast on Sky Sport tomorrow at 7am. 

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