Kiwi hockey player Rutherford a real keeper

MATT RICHENS IN GLASGOW
Last updated 08:59 01/08/2014
Sally Rutherford
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
SHOT BLOCKER: Sally Rutherford has been a standout performer for the women's Black Sticks at the Glasgow Games.

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It's very rarely New Zealand hockey player and double international Sally Rutherford is quiet, but it's been a good thing at the Commonwealth Games.

The Black Sticks women's goal keeper has conceded just one goal in Glasgow, a record she's quite keen to keep up when her side takes on England in tonight's semifinal.

Rutherford, 33, is not just a full-time hockey player, though.

She's just finished and submitted her PhD in Physiology and Bioengineering, is a part-time teacher and a member of the New Zealand women's lacrosse team.

A goal keeper in hockey, Rutherford started life in lacrosse as a forward and has slowly moved her way back to defender. 

She's New Zealand's no 1 hockey goalie, but is a 12-year veteran of lacrosse and been to three world championships.

"All the fitness and the hand-eye are the same, though the tactics are obviously quite different," she said. 

"I've been a bit lucky with the lacrosse coaches understanding my position and Mark [New Zealand hockey coach Mark Hager] allowing me to carry on too.

"I enjoy being busy and balancing it all. Everything I've done has helped the other aspects of my life, I would have gone mad if I was just doing Uni work."

Lacrosse was an outlet after Rutherford missed out on the New Zealand women's goal keeping spot for the London Olympics to Bianca Russell.

Rutherford's overtaken Russell in the pecking order now and it's working for the New Zealand set-up.

The Black Sticks are defending well as a unit and Rutherford is now considered one of the best in the world.

She and New Zealand goal keeping coach, former Indian men's representative  Jude Menezes, said it's a team effort, though Menezes was also full of praise for Rutherford.

"Because there are two very good [keepers] in Sally and Bianca, they push each other hard and that makes them better," he said.

"But Sally works very hard too. She's right up there now, but she's always trying to be better and work harder."

Rutherford hopes she and the Kiwi defenders can keep their near blemish-free record intact tonight against England in the Games' semifinal and set up a final date with either Australia or South Africa. 

She said confidence levels were high and their hard-fought 2-1 win over South Africa earlier in the tournament had been just the workout they needed. 

New Zealand won silver in women's hockey in 2010 and winning tonight would see them through to their second final and playing off for their third Commonwealth Games medal. 

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The women's semifinal is on at 1.30am tomorrow morning (NZT).

- Stuff

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