A sweet 16th birthday surprise had one Wairarapa College hockey player jumping for joy when she was named in the New Zealand Junior Black Sticks squad.
Megan Hull is the youngest player in the 30-strong women's squad and got the news that she had made the cut on her 16th birthday, earlier this month.
The midfielder represented Capital for the first time at the national under-21 tournament in Hamilton, where the women's side finished fourth. At the end of the tournament, Hull was named among some of the best under-21 women's players in the country to prepare for next year's Junior World Cup.
She said she had to pinch herself when her name was read out. "I didn't think it was me and I thought I was imagining things. It was a real surprise.
"I didn't expect anything like that and I just thought I would go up there for a bit of a learning experience and it would be really nice to play with those older girls."
Hull said she was comfortable playing alongside players who were more senior.
At the age of 9, she was called up to play in the under-13 B Wairarapa side and since then has continued to play representative hockey for age groups above her own.
During the under-21 season, Hull spent more than seven hours a week training at the turf, and she travelled at least twice a week to Wellington for hockey commitments.
Regardless of her time spent commuting, she said her rural lifestyle had not hindered her hockey. "I'm really passionate about Wairarapa hockey and just Wairarapa in general. I really like it and I would say it's definitely helped my game."
Hull's tournament performance secured her spot, but the squad will be reduced to 18 after a training camp in September.
She had a lot of work to do until then to ensure she made the final cut, she said.
"I'm just going to try personally to work really hard, and if it happens, it happens.
"If I play well and if I don't, well, then there's always next year. I'm just happy to be part of the squad."
A long-term goal of Hull's is to represent New Zealand at the Olympics.
"I think ever since I was a little girl I've wanted to make the Black Sticks ... but it's really nice to know that it could be a possibility, if I want to work hard for it."
Wairarapa College first XI hockey coach Willie Schaefer said players from the Wairarapa had characteristics that made them stand out from others, and Hull was a perfect example. "They play a particular brand coming from Wairarapa that they've learnt since they were small.
"They've got to be fairly committed individuals [because] it is a big commitment, but it's really good they get rewarded for their hard work and effort.
"Megan's a pretty special talent, and it's an amazing achievement for a just-turned 16-year-old.
"She's obviously got a big future in the game."
Eleven other Capital representatives made the Junior Black Sticks squads: Jenna Anderson, 19, Kelsey Smith, 18, Felicity Reidy, 19, Gen Macilquham, 20, Ryan Cosgrove, 20, Nick Finlayson, 19, Scott Kearney, 20, Gabe Kepes, 20, Trent Lett, 20, Matt Symonds, 18, Benedict van Woerkom, 20.
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- The Dominion Post
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