Jopp to make welcome return for Storm

Tessa Jopp
Tessa Jopp
The Southern Storm has named its squad, and there is a very welcome name tucked away in the middle.

Classy Black Sticks midfielder Tessa Jopp is poised to make her playing return to the National Hockey League (NHL), which gets under way next month.

Jopp, who has played 45 tests for her country, was forced to withdraw from the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team early this year for medical reasons.

She was not available for comment yesterday. But Ben Varkalis, who has been helping lead the Storm's training sessions in the absence of Melbourne-based coach Matt L'Huillier, told the Otago Daily Times she wanted everybody to know how excited she was to be back playing again.

''That is where she wanted it left,'' Varkalis said.

Jopp moved to Auckland three years ago to further her hockey, but is from Maniototo. Her presence in the Storm midfield will give the side an enormous lift.

''She brings experience at the highest level which any group would benefit from ... and she just gives the team a real solid force in the middle of the park.''

Jopp is a strong ball carrier with a quality distribution game and will help set the tempo and tone for the Storm.

Experienced goalie Ginny Wilson also shapes as a key player. She is an excellent shot-stopper, and her communication from the back is an asset.

Guest player Sandy Mitchell will provide cover in goal, although the Storm is still waiting for clearance from Hockey New Zealand.

She is familiar with the set-up, having played for the Storm last year.

Defender Lydia Shirley is one to watch. She has come through the Otago age group teams and will be making her debut at NHL level.

''She had a very, very good club season in Dunedin. She is gritty and determined and will get a good opportunity at this level to show her value to the team.''

Defender Abbey Mitton is a guest player from South Australia and she is expected to have an impact on the league.

''She comes with a really good reputation ... so we're excited about having her involved in the group.''

Striker Tegan Buchanan was the leading goal scorer in the Dunedin club competition and will take some form into the NHL.

It is her second year in the tournament, and Varkalis believes she will have more impact this season.

''She has speed to burn and she strikes the ball incredibly well. She is a determined striker who manages to get shots on goal.''

Varkalis said the first challenge for the side was to establish a connection, although this season half the squad is based in Dunedin and a good core of the players from outside the region have played for the Storm before.

''On paper they have plenty of talent in the team; it is just whether they can make it click and click as quickly as possible.''

The Storm opens its season against Canterbury in Christchurch next weekend.


Squad: Julia Boothroyd, Tegan Buchanan, Tinesha Carey, Bex Clementson, Ruby Coombes, Siennah Cowles, Tessa Jopp, Harriet McFetridge, Emily McNaughtan, Sandy Mitchell, Abbey Mitton, Claudia Peyroux, Aleisha Rainey, Lydia Shirley, Helaina Snell, Nicole Strawbridge, Kezia Taylor, Ginny Wilson.

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