'I love playing for New Zealand'

Nick Ross (right), of New Zealand, keeps Hugo Genestet, of France, at bay during the FIH Men's...
Nick Ross (right), of New Zealand, keeps Hugo Genestet, of France, at bay during the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup pool A match at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India, last November.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Nick Ross could hardly have asked for a better occasion to play a milestone match.

The former Dunedin player, who still turns out for the Southern Dogs team when he can, will bring up his 100th cap for the Black Sticks tonight.

He will do so in Auckland against the world's No 1 team, Belgium, in the newly established world Pro League.

It will be a significant moment for the 28-year-old, who was looking forward to sharing it with some familiar faces in the crowd.

"It's very exciting," he said.

"It also makes it very special being able to play it at home in such a cool event, which is the Pro League.

"And against the No 1 team in the world, which will present a good challenge.

"But I'm really looking forward to getting out there in front of my friends and family that have helped me along the way to get here."

It comes six years after Ross' debut in 2013, when the team played a three-test series against Malaysia on the way to the Azlan Shah tournament.

He remembered being excited and being happy to pull on the black shirt, achieving a lifelong goal.

Since then that thrill of wearing black has not waned.

"I love playing for New Zealand.

"I guess as you play more games you start to sort of embrace the challenge more every time.

"You strive to get better everyday and you want to be beating the best teams in the world and not just participating.

"The Pro League is great to do that. We played the Dutch last week; we get to play the world No1 Belgium [tonight].

"So it's match-ups that you really start to relish and you get to match yourself up against the best players in the world, which is really exciting."

His debut still rated as a career highlight, as did winning silver at last year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Looking ahead he hoped to help the team continue to compete on the world stage.

It was a goal was to be reaching the podium consistently at top events. That began with the Pro League and will progress to securing Olympic qualification for Tokyo.

Being at those Olympics was another goal of his.

Before then he would return to Belgium for his second year playing in that country's club league.

But for now his focus was firmly on tonight.

The Black Sticks were beaten 4-3 on Sunday by the Netherlands and he was hoping to turn that around to celebrate his milestone.

"It's always nice to get a performance on the board for a milestone game, so that would be a plus.

"We played some good hockey against the Dutch last week.

"We started too slow and we were punished for that in the end by having that slow start in the first quarter.

"So we'll be looking to make some tidy-ups.

"But we'll take a lot of confidence out of it. We know we can compete with the best teams coming over."

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