The London Olympics loss to the Dutch on penalties was a learning experience for the Black Sticks. Jonathan Millmow reports.
Kayla Sharland still has her Olympic moments.
She is home from Dubrovnik and Venice and Florence, where she "chilled out" after the Olympics but the pain of the Games is a constant companion.
The Black Sticks finished fourth, when they could've been first.
"Hockey people still tell me our game against the Dutch was the best game they have ever seen," Sharland said of the semifinal loss on penalties.
"It still hurts and it is frustrating that we didn't come away with anything, but that's life I guess."
Today Sharland is in Palmerston North but next week Christchurch will signal a new chapter in her life when she moves closer to her rugby playing partner George Whitelock and looks to enter the workforce.
Sharland confirmed she is taking an indefinite break from hockey to rest her body and get a taste of nine to five life. She is not old (27 next month) but her body is shot.
Sharland has studied business management and would like an opportunity to try her hand in event management. But she accepts that the red carpet won't necessarily be laid out for her just because she is a rattling good hockey player on the turf and a nice person off it.
You get the feeling Sharland will make a success of whatever she turns her hand to. She has leadership qualities, time for everyone and a tough streak.
For two weeks she drove her charges around the Riverbank Arena. Twice they were in front of the Dutch in the semifinal only for the game to be decided on a penalty shootout.
Coach Mark Hager took the blame, saying the Black Sticks were underprepared for such a scenario (shootout) but Sharland believes it was more pressure than preparation that led them down that sunny afternoon.
"In all our warmup games we did our simulation and did practice it after every game we played," she said.
"But once you get into the situation of pressure, we hadn't experienced it before in an international, let alone the biggest event in the world.
"So we'll learn a lot from it and the girls who took them showed good courage to step up and have a crack.
"You could just tell their [Dutch] experience with it, it made quite a difference in the end. They'd done it before and knew what they were doing."
Sharland isn't one for patting herself on the back. She was certainly one of the standout players of the tournament, but settles for giving herself a pass mark.
"I was pretty pleased with the way I went," she said.
"I was just trying to lead from the front really, and pull the girls through. They definitely stepped up in a big competition.
"It is pretty cool to come home and feel the support we had and have gained. Pretty much everyone you bump into is talking about it.
"It is good for the sport. We did a good job but it's frustrating we couldn't nail it at the end."
So, standby for an announcement in the coming days on Sharland's future.
She has already turned down an offer to return to Adelaide as South Australia's import player and will probably confirm the length of her international break after one final chat with Hager.
"I've had injury breaks but they aren't the same," Sharland said.
I've been chased a bit by my old team [South Australia]. It would've been nice to play again and try and retain the title, but I need a break so it makes sense not to do that.
"I'll talk to Mark and I guess make a call. It's a bit tricky at the moment because we don't even know our [Black Sticks] programme yet."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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