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Talented New Zealand striker Nick Wilson hopes his and teammate Simon Child's selection for the inaugural Indian Hockey League will open the door for more Black Sticks in the coming seasons.
Wilson was snapped up for US$24,000 - US$4000 more than his reserve price - by the Ranchi Rhinos, while fellow striker Child met his reserve in being bought by the Delhi Wave Riders as hockey cashes in on India's love of the stick sport.
Nine New Zealand players put their hands up in the auction, but only the pair of hot-shot attackers attracted interest.
Palmerston North player Wilson was loath to speculate on why more didn't draw interest "but sometimes it's not what your actual value is, it's about how much someone is prepared to pay on the day".
New Zealand's disappointing Olympic campaign, where they finished ninth, may have had a bearing, although Wilson made a valid point disputing that. "There are top-quality coaches [involved] and they know all the players," he said.
Wilson had been reasonably confident of his chances before the auction. He was top scorer with five at this month's Champions Trophy in Melbourne, when New Zealand finished seventh. The 22-year-old, with more than 100 caps, is relishing the prospect of testing himself.
"It's treading new waters, and so exciting for us," he said. "If we can get more people doing this every year it means you can fully commit to playing hockey and ultimately perform better on the world stage."
Wilson's top-priced teammate is German Moritz Fuertse, who was bought for US$83,500, while Aucklander Child's most expensive teammate at Delhi is Indian Sardar Singh (US$78,000). Dutch veteran and three-time world player of the year Teun de Nooijer lightened the Uttar Pradesh Wizards' pockets by US$87,400.
The Indian Hockey League will run from January 16 to February 10 and involves six franchises, based in Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Mohali, Ranchi and either Bangalore or Chennai.
Squads of 24 are made up of 14 Indian and 10 overseas players. New Zealand pair Nick Wilson (US$24,000) and Simon Child (US$20,000) were picked up by the Ranchi Rhinos and Delhi Wave Riders respectively.
Top price in the auction was paid for Dutch star Teun de Nooijer, for whom the Uttar Pradesh Wizards forked out US$87,400.
- By David Leggat of the New Zealand Herald