OPINION: I had the opportunity to attend the National Hockey League last weekend and mix and mingle with both Black Sticks' coaches - commiserations were in order - various Hockey New Zealand personnel and some old hockey mates from a bygone era (when the game was played on grass and at half the pace of the modern era).
The modern game is a fast and open spectacle requiring extraordinary fitness and agility from the players.
While the finals were enjoyable to watch, I spent most of my time nervously watching both Central teams perform with distinction so it was nice being able to say to my colleagues in the VIP lounge we had beaten both the Midlands men and the Capital women, whose player base and financial resources far outstrip those of Central.
It was a gutsy effort for both teams to get fifth. With a little bit of luck, the men could easily have been quarterfinalists.
Nick Wilson really was a tower of strength for the men as was Alice Naylor and Caryn Paewai for the women.
Wilson looked like a spent force at the end of the tournament and Naylor looked like a walking Egyptian mummy with all her bandages and strapping.
Well done to coaches Greg Clark and Paewai and their team of officials.
■ In the Manawatu men's club competition, Massey leads the points table on 33 with HSHC (holders of the Challenge Cup) on 31 followed by College on 30 and TCOB on 25 points.
This weekend, High School Hockey Club play and College on turf 2 at 1pm and Massey play Technical College Old Boys on turf 1 at 2.30pm.
The game between HSHC and College will be a closely-fought battle and a lot will depend on which team dominates the midfield.
Both teams have a lot of experience in the centre, with HSHC relying on Daniel Parry and Darryl Cochrane and College relying on Daniel Juno and Warren Phillips.
If coach Tony Brougham has a full complement of players available for the game, I predict HSHC may win as they are capable of outflanking the College midfield.
Massey plays TCOB in the second semifinal and this should be a competitive game as it really is Manawatu verses Wanganui in disguise. I played plenty of those in my day when no quarter was asked or given by either province.
Massey had six players in the Central Mavericks last week and I suspect they will be a little weary after the week-long tournament.
Players such as Marcus Emery and Gabe Rawcliffe are vital to Massey, so it will be interesting to see how they perform.
TCOB should be very fresh and if they turn up with the right attitude, they could be highly competitive. I predict a close win to Massey.
Challenge Trophy holders College lead the women's competition with 43 points followed by Massey on 37 and Collegians and Evergreens both on 17.
This weekend's semifinal sees College play High School Hockey Club Evergreens on turf 2 at 2.30pm.
The game between Massey and Collegians Hockey Club has been deferred and will be played during the week.
College has been the front-runner all season and I don't see Evergreens causing an upset.
Coach Fiona Chard has a pool of experienced and young players to call on, and the bench will be too strong for Evergreens who are a little light on playing numbers.
College have a raft of former Black Sticks in the team who are capable of stepping up to the plate so I predict them to win easily.
- Manawatu Standard
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