Hockey: Youth and experience in Black Sticks squad

Black Sticks men's head coach Colin Batch has named five new faces in his 2013 national squad as well as experienced players from this year's Olympic team.

North Harbour's Cory Bennett, James Coughlan and George Muir, Auckland's Devon Manchester and Alex Shaw have all graduated to the main squad after being part of the development mix last year.

Muir said when he read the email last night he was scanning the development squad list and was pretty surprised when he spotted his name higher up the list.

"To be one of the 25 players is a highlight of the year for me, and a pretty nice Christmas present," said Muri, who has just finished his first year of law and commerce at Auckland University.

The other highlight for Muir was being selected in the Junior Black Sticks team that went to Malaysia and having the chance to experience international competition for the first time.

"The increase in pace and intensity at that level, the skill level of the other countries and just seeing what is required to take the step up was a great learning experience. Add to that the heat, crowd and atmosphere of the event and you start to realise what is required to play at an international level," he said.

The only other debutant named in the side is North Harbour teammate Bennett, and Muir agreed it would be good to have someone he knows well when he starts training with the side in the new year.

The two players not included from the Olympic team are Kyle Pontifex and Ryan Archibald who have made themselves unavailable for next year.

Batch said the recent FIH 2013 Champions Trophy in Melbourne gave him a chance to get to know the players and says the 25 picked have the talent he is looking for.

"We have a lot of work to do next year to get the results we want, and I believe that this group has what it takes, we just need to put in the hard yards. I think there is still an opportunity to find out more about the players in the Development Squad which is why they have been invited to the camp in February," Batch said.

Training for the new squad begins the week commencing January 14 with the key event for the year being the world league round three which is scheduled to be in Europe in June but is still to be confirmed.

Black Sticks squad: Cory Bennett, Phil Burrows, Marcus Child, Simon Child, James Coughlan, Dean Couzins, Steve Edwards, Nick Haig, Andy Hayward, Blair Hilton, Blair Hopping, Hugo Inglis, Stephen Jenness, Devon Manchester, Shea McAleese, Hamish McGregor, George Muir, Shay Neal, Arun Panchia, Richard Petherick, Kane Russell, Alex Shaw, Bradley Shaw, Blair Tarrant, Nick Wilson

Development squad: Joel Baker, Joseph Bartholomew, George Enersen, Sam Greaney, Matt L'Huillier, Richard Joyce, Dane Lett, Tom Loudon, Jared Panchia, Dwayne Rowsell, Nick Ross, Jacob Smith.


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