Sharland warns of attrition

Kayla Sharland wonders whether in future international hockey players will be able to survive the crazy match schedules.

Now aged 28, the New Zealand captain brought up her double century of tests for the Black Sticks at the World League in Argentina last week.

And her good friend, Emily Naylor, who bypassed that trip, is sitting on 225 tests and advancing on Suzie Muirhead's record of 238.

But ask Sharland about her upcoming schedule and it will be almost continuous until the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in July-August. And the hockey players are hardly professionals.

A New Zealand team goes to the United States in February for a Four Nations tournament, then has a Six Nations tourney in Hawke's Bay before a four-week block of "centralisation" when the players must up sticks and shift to Auckland.

It doesn't stop there. Then there is the World Cup against the top 12 nations at The Hague in The Netherlands before a three-week break leading into the Commonwealth Games. "It makes it pretty tough; there are a lot more games these days," Sharland said.

When she started in 2003, there were about 20 tests a year. That has doubled since.

"Some teams play more than that, over 40, which is crazy.

"It does take its toll on people's bodies, the training and the game is so much quicker now."

An exception is Argentinian captain Luciana Aymar who is still running around playing world-class hockey aged 36. Eight times she has been the world player of the year.

Sharland has had her knee troubles throughout her career, but in the past two years she has managed the knee in the gym and both years she has been nominated as the world player of the year. This year's has yet to be picked.

She knows she won't go on forever, maybe not to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

"I will focus on next year and see how it goes," she said.

She said hitting the 200 mark was special because it was her last game as a Sharland. By the end of the month she will be Kayla Whitelock when she weds Canterbury rugby player George Whitelock in Palmerston North.

She said if she spills the beans on the date of the wedding and photos get out, they won't be paid by the women's magazine which has bought the rights. Naylor will be her maid of honour.

In Tucuman, Argentina, Sharland said she "felt pretty old", but she was only the third-oldest player in the team and was scoring goals, including the winner in her 200th in the 1-0 victory over China. She said it had been weird not having Naylor there.

"She's solid at the back for us and has her defensive role in midfield. At times I had to go back there."

New Zealand lost to the Dutch in the quarterfinals, a team Sharland has never beaten, only drawn with.

There were no weeks of leave such as the All Blacks get when they return. Yesterday she was back at work at DB Breweries in Christchurch.

Manawatu Standard