North-South match to act as Games trial

The Black Sticks players will play their first competitive matches of the year in a new series stitched together to provide some preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.

A North-South series will get under way next month and involve the country’s top men and women.

The series will be staged in Hamilton on April 17-20 and will double as an Olympic trial.

The Black Sticks were scheduled to play Australia in the FIH Hockey Pro League at that time but those matches have been postponed.

Black Sticks men’s coach Darren Smith said it would be fantastic to play some high quality hockey.

Two players from the 25-strong men’s national squad are unavailable for the series. Otago's Kane Russell has returned to Germany to complete his contract with the Hamburg club until mid-May, and Brad Read will take some time away from hockey after suffering a concussion last month.

Black Sticks women’s head coach Graham Shaw said the players were very excited about the series after training together since January.

“The series will provide the players with a perfect opportunity to test our style of play and the areas we have focused heavily on since the beginning of the year.

"It will also give us a good marker on how players are tracking as we get closer to selection for Tokyo," he said.

A national under-21 event will be run alongside the North-South match, with New Zealand under-21 men’s and women’s teams named afterwards. Junior World Cups are scheduled in India (men) and South Africa (women) in November and December this year.

Otago's Nick Elder, Hugo Inglis, Nick Ross and Blair Tarrant have been named in the men's South team and Tessa Jopp and Ginny Wilson have been named in the women's South team.

 

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