OPINION: As this is my last column, I thought I'd let you in on what the Black Sticks have been talking about ahead of the Commonwealth Games, what we've been working on and where we see our strengths.
I'm not going to tell you all of our secrets in case the Aussies or English happen to find this, but we've had a good hard look at ourselves and our performance at the World Cup in the Netherlands and we think there is real room for improvement.
Improvement mostly on our attack and our attitude.
I've said it before, but our attitude towards preparation wasn't good enough at the World Cup and it cost us. We finished fifth, but it could, and perhaps should, have been better.
We didn't prepare as well as we could have for the Korean game and we lost 1-0.
We should have beaten them and if we'd done all the work and prepared like it was a match against the world No 1 Netherlands side or Australia, we would have given ourselves a far better chance.
So that's been a major talking point for us and will be through the Four Nations tournament in Ireland before the Games then in Glasgow as well.
Hopefully, those teams ranked lower than us, that we perhaps wouldn't have prepared as well for in the past, are going to feel the brunt of our extra work and a change in attitude at the Games.
We're the top ranked team in our pool, but if we slip up there's a good chance we'll meet Australia in the semifinals. We're not afraid of them, but we'd rather win our pool and have perhaps an easier crossover.
We're ranked second at the tournament so if we don't get a medal, we'll all be pretty disappointed.
But obviously all the other teams will lift for a chance at a Commonwealth Games medal too, so it's not going to be easy and that's why we need to turn up 100 per cent on top of our game and mentally ready to go.
We've got Trinidad and Tobago up first and we have India, South Africa and Canada in our pool.
South Africa and India are likely to be the toughest two and obviously we want to win all our games, as well as improving throughout.
The other crucial thing we need to work on is our attack.
We create a lot of chances, but the percentage we convert isn't as high as we'd like.
We were pretty disappointing in this area at the World Cup too and we've worked really hard on it for the last three weeks so hopefully the goals start flowing.
That doesn't come down to just the strikers, though. It's where they get the ball, the space other players find themselves in and how we can stretch the defence.
We've addressed and worked hard on those things as well as spending plenty of time on our basic skills. They weren't quite where they needed to be at the World Cup either so we've spent plenty of time on that too.
Those things are all easy to work on, what is a little tougher to gauge is how the team will react to the Games life. It's so different from a straight hockey tournament. There's that New Zealand team atmosphere and so much more going on. We'll talk about how we deal with that closer to the time.
We've got games against Ireland, Canada and Chile in Ireland to get through then we're off to the Games. We really concentrate on just one game at a time and not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but it's hard not to think about medals and such things. And it would be great to win New Zealand's first Commonwealth Games hockey gold medal. There's a bit to do before then, though.
- The Press