NZ's win helps Curtis find feet

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 10/12/2012
Michaela Curtis
PHOTOSPORT
MANAWATU'S LATEST: Michaela Curtis, on debut, unleashes a strike on the Indian goal at Napier yesterday.

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Manawatu's latest prodigy, Michaela Curtis, will play in one or both of the tests against India in Palmerston North over the next two days.

She made her debut, if a little nervously, in the 3-1 win over India at Napier yesterday after the other seven new players were given their debuts in the 7-2 win there on Saturday.

With Gemma Flynn injured and doubtful for the two Palmerston North games, and with goalie Sally Rutherford off home for university commitments, coach Mark Hager will be down to 18 players for the next two matches.

Manawatu goalkeeper Georgia Barnett joined the team today. The other goalie, Amelia Gibson, hasn't played so she will start tomorrow night.

"I would love to get Georgia on but we'll have to see how the game's going," Hager said.

Curtis, 19, found the pace faster than she was accustomed to and admitted to being jittery yesterday. She did have two shots on goal, one saved, one wide.

"In the second half I went back on and wasn't as nervous," she said.

While Hager was pleased all eight newbies had played, he said yesterday's clash was a good learning curve.

"It's fantastic for the kids but they need to work hard in every test match."

He knew India might be vulnerable on Saturday because they had only arrived in Napier the day before the test. Even though they are ranked 12th in the world against New Zealand's all-time high of No 3, it was a different story yesterday.

India led 1-0 until 15 minutes from the end.

"We weren't playing well at all. I thought we were off the pace. They [India] stepped it up and we expected it to happen like Saturday."

But when the Black Sticks had a go in the last 15 minutes, they clicked.

Hager calls the new No 3 ranking "a bit scary and daunting" and was candid enough to say the Black Sticks are not really a consistent third team in the world. However, they did finish fourth at the Olympics and have picked up ranking points at every tournament.

It is weird that the team is playing in Palmerston North, a Black Sticks' nursery for two decades, and yet the captains from the Olympics, Emily Naylor and Kayla Sharland, are having time off.

But Hager dropped a hint that more games are in the pipeline next year and they are looking at taking games on the road again.

He also said all four big-name absentees - Naylor, Sharland, Krystal Forgesson and Bianca Russell - will rejoin the squad in February before the Black Sticks tour to Argentina.

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Sharing the captaincy in this series are Anita Punt, Gemma Flynn who grabbed a hat-trick on Saturday, Katie Glynn and Stacey Nicholson.

The other debutants are Canterbury's Sian Fremaux, Jenny Storey, Pippa Hayward, Olivia Merry and Timaru schoolgirl Cassandra Reid (Craighead Diocesan School), who needed five stitches in a leg wound on Saturday, Aniwaka Roberts (Wellington) who starred yesterday, and Rose Keddell (Auckland). Merry, the national league top-scorer with 11 goals, slotted two on Saturday.

Hager played alongside India's new coach Neil Hawgood in the Australia team in his heyday.

Saturday: NZ 7 (Julia King, Olivia Merry 2, Katie Glynn 3, Anita Punt) India 3. HT 3-1

Sunday: NZ 3 (Sian Fremaux, Anita Punt, Charlotte Harrison) India 1, HT 0-all.

NEW ZEALAND (shirt No, player, NHL team, position, age, caps): 13 Sam Charlton (Midlands), defender/midfielder, 20, 36; 14 Michaela Curtis (Central), striker, 19, new cap; 22 Gemma Flynn (Midlands) midfielder/striker, 22, 119; 25 Sian Fremaux (Canterbury) midfielder/striker, 20, new cap; 10 Amelia Gibson (Canterbury), GK, 21, 11; 5 Katie Glynn (Auckland), striker, 23, 93; 12 Ella Gunson (Northland), midfielder, 23, 84; 28 Charlotte Harrison (Northland), striker, 23, 163; 26 Pippa Hayward (Canterbury), defender/midfielder, 22, new cap; 24 Rose Keddell (Auckland), defender/midfielder, 18, new cap; 15 Julia King (Auckland), midfielder/striker 19, 23; 4 Olivia Merry (Canterbury), striker, 20, new cap; 31 Stacey Michelsen (Northland), midfielder-defender, 21, 109; 32 Anita Punt (Capital), midfielder, 25, 103; 23 Cassandra Reid (Canterbury), midfielder/striker, 18, new cap; 7 Aniwaka Roberts (Capital), defender / midfielder, 23, new cap; 8 Sally Rutherford (Midlands), goalkeeper, 31, 32; 29 Jenny Storey, (Canterbury), defender, 20 new cap; 6 Petrea Webster (North Harbour) striker/midfielder, 24, 18; 21 Georgia Barnett (Central) goalkeeper, 18, new cap.

Coach: Mark Hager. Assistant coach: Greg Nicol.

INDIA (from): Savita (GK), Rajani Etimarpu (GK), Deep Grace Ekka, Kirandeep Kaur, Deepika, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Kiran Dhaiya, Namita Toppo, Ponnamma Mallamada Narendra, Ritu Rani (c), Poonam Rani, Soundarya Yendala, Vanadana Katariya, Chanchan Devi Thokchom, Lilima Minz, Anupa Barla, Navjot Kaur, Jaspreet Kaur.

Coach: Neil Hawgood. Assistant coach: Sumrai Tete.

- Manawatu Standard

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