The Black Sticks Men’s team to play at the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia in early May has been named and includes 17 year old school boy, Nick Wilson. Wilson, originally from Palmerston North Boys High, has moved to North Harbour as part of the Black Sticks centralization program and a strong showing at the Azlan Shah tournament will force Coach Shane McLeod into making some tough calls when time comes to name his team of 16 for Beijing.
Wilson gets his chance at the expense of 200 test veteran Bevan Hari, however Hari still remains well in contention for Beijing. Bryce Collins, who tore his ACL against Australia in November 2007 has not been considered for selection, however is expected to return to club hockey at the end of April. Lloyd Stephenson and Richard Petherick are the other squad members to miss selection for this tournament, however all of the above players will be considered for selection in the team to tour Europe in June.
The Black Sticks will play three other Beijing bound teams at the Azlan Shah tournament – Pakistan, Belgium and Canada. India who recently missed qualification for Beijing and Malaysia make up the six teams. New Zealand, ranked 10th in the world is the 3rd highest ranked team competing in the tournament behind Pakistan (6th) and India (9th).
Although Coach Shane McLeod is keen to win this tournament, he also points out that the team will be subjected to an overload of training sessions prior to and during the tournament, so the team can be exposed to high pressure hockey in humid conditions while fatigued - a theory that will ideally pay dividends in the heat and humidity of Beijing.
The Azlan Shah tournament runs from May 8th to 18th in Ipoh, Malaysia. The Black Sticks team will travel to Malaysia on Saturday May 3rd.
The six competing teams and their world rankings are: Pakistan (6th), New Zealand (10th), Belgium (12th), Canada (15th), India (9th) and Malaysia (14th).
Team New Zealand:
David Kosoof, Andrew Hayward, Simon Child, Blair Hopping, Dean Couzins, Casey Henwood, Ryan Archibald, Bradley Shaw, Paul Woolford, Kyle Pontifex, Phillip Burrows, Hayden Shaw, James Nation, Gareth Brooks, Shea McAleese, Ben Collier, Steve Edwards, Nick Wilson.
Source: Hockey New Zealand