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New Zealand names experienced team for Olympic Qualifier
23 Jan 2008 07:03

© FIH / Vino John

The men’s team of New Zealand - with an impressive average cap of 100 - will be by far the most experienced side at the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier which begins at Albany in 10 days.

The side was named after the eight-match series against Chile and Japan. The series concluded in Tauranga with a clean sweep over Japan.

Argentina is the next most experienced side in the tournament with an average of 79 caps, while in contrast, the average number of games played by the USA side is just 32.

The six competing teams for the tournament which will be played at Crown Relocations Stadium, Albany, from February 2 - 10 are: Argentina (world ranking 7), France (16), Ireland (19), New Zealand (10) Trinidad & Tobago (24) and USA (27).

The New Zealand side is built around a core of world class players. Blair Hopping, who has played over 150 games for NZ, is the defensive lynchpin and the launching pad for attack from deep defense.

Captain Ryan Archibald (2007 World All Star), provides flair and ball control in the midfield. Another veteran Phil Burrows spearheads a potent attack. Alongside him, 19-year-old Simon Child, who was named Hockey NZ Young Player of the Year in 2007, has been in superb goal scoring form during the Chile and Japan series.

Midfielder Steve Edwards was another player to impress during the series. The 22-year-old has made enormous progress in a short space of time since debuting for New Zealand at the Champions Challenge in May last year. Edwards is never fazed on the field.

New Zealand amassed 33 goals during the eight build up matches against Chile and Japan in Whangarei, Counties and Tauranga. The Black Sticks won all four matches against Japan and had three wins and a narrow loss against Chile.

Black Sticks Coach Shane McLeod, who has led the side since March 2007, is happy with the progress of his side during the series.

“Looking past the results, we have gained several things from the experiences,” he said.

McLeod was pleased with how the side came back strongly to refocus after the loss to Chile and was also encouraged by the outstanding second half come back during the third test against Japan. New Zealand was 2 - 0 at half-time, but surged back to win 3 - 2.

“Our performances showed resilience and a determination to win,” he said

Another positive was the high number of goals scored - an average of over four per game.

The 19th player from the series unlucky to make the final cut of 18 for the tournament was Central midfielder Shea McAleese. The 23-year-old has been impaired by a dislocated shoulder which first occurred some months ago. The shoulder has “popped out” several times since and the risk of reoccurrence is too high.

The Black Sticks will now have a short break before reassembling on the North Shore of Auckland on Sunday 27 February, for final tournament preparation.

“We go in well prepared for what will be quite an even sort of competition,” says McLeod. “Argentina and New Zealand may have their heads out in front, but it is definitely not a two horse race.”

Team New Zealand: David Kosoof, Andrew Hayward, Simon Child, Blair Hopping, Dean Couzins, Casey Henwood, Ryan Archibald, Bradley Shaw, Bevan Hari, Paul Woolford (GK), Kyle Pontifex (GK), Phillip Burrows, Hayden Shaw, James Nation, Lloyd Stephenson, Gareth Brooks, Ben Collier, Steve Edwards.

Source: Hockey New Zealand

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