Michelsen confident young side will step up

Stacey Michelsen
Stacey Michelsen
New Zealand is determined to go one better than last time when it hosts the women’s World League hockey final in Auckland, starting today.

The world No5 Black Sticks finished runner-up to world No3 and host Argentina in the final of this tournament in 2015.

The personnel have changed significantly since then, with plenty of young players pushing through to the national team, but co-captain Stacey Michelsen is excited by the potential and the occasion.

"It’s exciting to see what the young players have been doing at training. I’m sure they will step up," Michelsen, among the world’s elite players, said.

"We’ve been really fortunate to be training in Auckland together for a long time. We’ve had a good build-up and we’re very excited for it to start."

Another reason for wanting to perform strongly, apart from the rare  experience of hosting a major international tournament, is this is the final edition of the World League, which has not proved popular.

The Netherlands won in 2013 and Argentina two years later, and this will be the finale. The International Hockey Federation has plans to start a major new competition, the Pro League, in early 2019, which will involve nine countries playing each other home and away over a six-month period.

So finishing the World League on a high, and making best use of the event as a lead-in to next year’s World Cup in London, will be priorities for a New Zealand side that will enjoy the rare experience of solid home support on a world stage.

Eight of the world’s top nine teams are in Auckland. The odd one out is world No4 Australia, which filed to qualify.

New Zealand begins its campaign at North Harbour Hockey tonight against the Dutch, with other Pool A games against the United States and Korea to follow.

The Dutch, runners-up at last year’s Rio Olympics, European champions, world No1 and a perennial force in the game, have lost a clutch of star players post-Rio, but captain Marloes Keetels is confident.

"We won the European championships in Amsterdam and that gave us a lot of confidence as a new team," Keetels said.

"I think we’re building on that now and the young players are growing very fast. Our prospects are good."

The team that beat the Dutch in the Olympic gold medal match, Great Britain — which this week  plays as England — has jumped to world No2 and is aiming to show the Rio triumph was no flash in the pan result.

"There’s about eight players from Rio [in Auckland] and we have a fantastic blend," England captain Alex Danson said.

"We are very respectful of our past but we’re a forward-facing team and trying to evolve and create a new way of playing."

Outstanding striker Danson, with 105 goals in her 286 caps,  acknowledged England needed to build on the Rio gold. The same could be said for the Germans, who beat New Zealand in the bronze medal match at the Olympics.

It was the second straight Olympics New Zealand had lost in a bronze medal match and it hurt.

The United States and Korea will play the other opening-day match today.

The gold and bronze matches will be on November 26.

- David Leggat


World League
Final pools

Pool A: Netherlands (world No1), New Zealand (5), United States (7), Korea (9)

Pool B: England (2), Argentina (3), Germany (6), China (8)

Add a Comment