Probably last crack for veteran Otago trio

The Black Sticks men’s squad for the Paris Olympics pose for a team photo during the selection...
The Black Sticks men’s squad for the Paris Olympics pose for a team photo during the selection announcement in Auckland yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
This is probably the last shot for three lads from Dunedin.

Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant and Hugo Inglis have been named in the Black Sticks squad for the Olympics in Paris.

No surprises there.

The trio have clocked more than 700 games among them at the top level.

Russell and Tarrant are up to their third Olympic campaign, while Inglis is one ahead. He made his Olympic debut at the London Games in 2012.

Dunedin’s Malachi Buschl has been named as a travelling reserve, while fellow Otago player Benji Culhane has been selected as a non-travelling reserve.

Russell, Tarrant and Inglis grew up playing hockey together.

Russell, 32, idolised Tarrant and Inglis. They were a couple of years ahead of him at Otago Boys’ High School.

"It is pretty crazy to think that when we were running around as kids that we’d go on [to play international hockey together]," Russell said.

Russell has notched more the 200 tests for his country and Tarrant and Inglis have cracked 250.

It is an extraordinary effort.

"As a young nipper, I was always following in Blair and Hugo’s footsteps, so I feel like they paved the way a little bit for me."

Russell made his debut for the national team in 2012 but missed Olympic selection that year.

He joined Tarrant and Inglis in the squad for the Rio Games in 2016 and that tournament proved memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The Black Sticks made it through to the quarterfinal and led Germany 2-1 with less than a minute remaining.

The Germans scored from a penalty corner to equalise and banged in the winner with just seconds left.

That game haunts the defender. And every four years the game tape resurfaces on the social networks and people start talking about it again.

"I always think back to that moment. There are always reminders on social media and sometimes you see the video pop up, so you can’t not reflect on it.

"But you learn from your losses, especially those big losses.

"But right now we’ve got a super exciting group."

That group includes veteran Simon Child, who will be attending his fourth Olympics.

Younger players like Sean Findlay, brothers Charlie and Joe Morrison, Simon Yorston and Isaac Houlbrooke have helped freshen up the team.

"I just think there is a great mix of experience and knowledge and some young flair and excitement."

The team were presented with their playing kit yesterday by members of New Zealand’s gold medal-winning hockey team from the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

The kit pays homage to the 1976 side, featuring the names of the athletes inside the shirt. It is also a similar design.

The Black Sticks are in a tough pool that includes Australia, Argentina and Belgium.

They will likely need to win at least two of their five games to progress to the quarterfinals.

They were eliminated during the round-robin stage at the Tokyo Games but Russell is hopeful they can make it out of pool play.

"We are going to have to take a big scalp at some stage and put away the likes of Ireland.

"In my opinion it will be the hardest Olympics in a while to pick who is going to win. I feel like it is super open and all the teams can beat each on on their day.

"I definitely think we can make it to the quarters and then reassess from there.

"It is hard to imagine all three of us will get another one together."

Black Sticks

Olympic squad

Nic Woods (captain), Dom Dixon, Charlie Morrison, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant, Simon Yorston, Sean Findlay, Isaac Houlbrooke, Joe Morrison, Hayden Phillips, Scott Boyde, Simon Child, Sam Lane, Jake Smith, Hugo Inglis, Dane Lett. Travelling reserves: Leon Hayward, Brad Read and Malachi Buschl. Non-travelling reserves: George Enersen, Benji Culhane, David Brydon, Aidan Sarikaya, George Baker, Jonty Elmes, Sam Hiha.