Hockey: Archibald taking indefinite break

New Zealand may have seen the last of one of the best hockey players the country has produced, with Ryan Archibald taking an indefinite break from the game.

The 32-year-old made himself unavailable for next month's Champions Trophy in Melbourne, and he was the notable absentee when new Black Sticks' coach Colin Batch announced his squad yesterday.

While stopping short of retiring, Archibald said he has lost the passion to play in the national side and, for the foreseeable future, will instead focus on work.

"I'm taking a bit of time away from the national programme just to think about my future," he said.

"I'm not going to rush into making any decisions.

Over the next few months I'll basically learn whether there's still motivation there to be involved with the national programme, or whether I give that away."

Archibald had previously suggested he would give away the game following the London Olympics but, after a disappointing tournament in which the Black Sticks finished ninth, he was wary of pulling the plug prematurely.

"Originally I had said that, yes, but I'm still playing really good hockey. If I had the motivation to play I think I'd still have plenty to give."

It's hard to doubt that. Archibald's enduring class was obvious when he returned to the Black Sticks last year following 15 months away from international hockey.

That break, taken following the 2010 Champions Trophy, is a precedent for Archibald returning to the national side following an extended hiatus, and there's no question he would again be welcomed back with open arms if his motivation returned.

With international success about the only thing missing from a bulging career CV, Archibald did hint the 2014 World Cup in the Netherlands could stoke the fires.

"In six months' time, if I feel like I'm keen to have a crack at the next World Cup then that may be the case, or it may be that I decide the motivation isn't there to commit the time and effort that's required.

"At the moment it's very much just wait and see. Obviously the World Cup is the next major event. If motivation was there then I would consider making myself available for that."

After making his debut for New Zealand in 1997, Archibald has represented his country more than 250 times while also playing professionally in the Netherlands, the world's top domestic league, for five years.

He has also been preparing for life after hockey, using the prior break from the Black Sticks to establish a career away from the turf.

"Because we're amateur athletes we do have to consider the other parts of our lives as well," Archibald said. "Things like study and work are equally as important and, at times, they've had to take priority over the hockey.

"Those breaks have been really good because they've allowed me to have some time out and get back motivation to play."

Batch and the Black Sticks will be hoping that happens once again.


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