From Rio to NHL for Central youngster Hayden Phillips
Hayden Phillips has played at an Olympic games, but is yet to play in the National Hockey League.
The 18-year-old Phillips is just back from the Rio Olympics with the men's Black Sticks, who were knocked out by Germany in the quarterfinals, but will suit up for the Central Mavericks in the NHL when it starts this weekend.
Only a year out of Palmerston North Boys' High school, Phillips is yet to play for the Central senior men's team, but the midfielder should still be a influential player this season.
After returning from Rio last week, he had a few days at home in Levin before joining Central.
"[The Olympics] was a great experience," he said, "I loved every minute of it."
He said it was disappointing the way the Black Sticks lost the quarterfinal, blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in the final seconds.
Otherwise he enjoyed the trip and was a bit overwhelmed coming across stars like swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. Phillips got to watch some of the athletics and basketball.
He hadn't trained with the Central squad, but knew most of them from playing with or against them.
Central's other Black Stick, Nick Wilson, isn't playing for NHL this season, but it was unlikely any of the Black Sticks would play NHL this year.
Phillips and exciting young striker Mac Wilcox, who is in the New Zealand junior world cup squad, will be some of Central's go-to players on attack.
The Central team is mainly Central-based players with one guest player - Johnny Thorn from Southern - and a lot of them have played NHL before.
The Central men finished seventh last year and are likely to find it tough going again this season.
Whakatane-based Brad Jensen is coaching them for the second year in a row, with Greg Nicol, last year's women's coach, his assistant.
The Central Mysticks women are a young side without any of their Black Sticks players.
There are only five Central-based players in the squad in former Black Stick Michaela Curtis, Pippa Norman, Casey-Mae Waddell, New Zealand age-group goalkeeper Tegan Muraahi and the experienced Sheree Horvath, who is also a former Black Stick.
Beth Norman, who is studying in Auckland, is a player of origin, while Kate Sellar (North Harbour) played for Central last year and Claudia Hanham (North Harbour) played two years ago.
There are 10 guest players in the squad, from Auckland, North Harbour and Midlands.
There are injuries and some players unavailable in the Central region, but it is still a worry there is a lack of Central players in the squad.
One notable absentee is fringe New Zealand player and goalkeeper Georgia Barnett, who is taking a break until next year, but Muraahi is more than capable in goal.
They had their first outing together against Capital in Paraparaumu last week and looked good, winning 5-3.
Auckland-based Hitendra Patel is the coach this year, with veteran player Caryn Paewai, who is now living in Northland, his assistant.
The Central women finished sixth last year.
This weekend, both the Central men and women play Midlands at Napier on Saturday, then Capital in Wellington on Sunday.
Tournament week starts the following weekend in Whangarei, running from September 10 to 17.
Southern have not entered a men's or women's team this season.
Central Mysticks: Kelsey Lewis (guest player), Tori Robinson (guest player), Tyler Lench (guest player), Tuhia Hohepa (guest player), Michaela Curtis (Manawatu), Claudia Hanham (guest player), Lulu Tuilotolava (guest player), Tenilee Burnside (guest player), Annie McNaughtan (guest player), Casey-Mae Waddell (Horowhenua), Beth Norman (player of origin - Rangitikei), Sheree Horvath (Manawatu), Pippa Norman (Rangitikei), Kate Sellar (guest player), Hannah Williamson (guest player), Tegan Muraahi (Horowhenua), Lara Williams (guest player). Coach: Hitendra Patel. Assistant: Caryn Paewai. Manager: Kathy Norman.
Central Mavericks: Aaron Ball (Hawke's Bay), Mac Wilcox (Poverty Bay), Brennan Alexander-Parker (Hawke's Bay), Robert Creffier (Hawke's Bay), Joe Hanks (Hawke's Bay), Sam Hiha (Hawke's Bay), Martin Atkinson (Wanganui), Oscar Stewart (Hawke's Bay), Hayden Phillips (Horowhenua), Matt Young (Manawatu), Dylan Thomas (Hawke's Bay), Josh Smith (Manawatu), Jake Blanks (Manawatu), Mitchell Cronin (Manawatu), Dom Dixon (Hawke's Bay), Matt Brougham (Manawatu), Johnny Thorn (guest player), Krishan Gajadhar (Manawatu). Coach: Brad Jensen. Assistant: Greg Nicol. Managers: David Stones, Corey Prouting.