Back to drawing board for Black Sticks women

MATT RICHENS IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2014
GUTTED: Members of the NZ women's hockey team trudge off the turf following their shock loss to England in the Commonwealth Games semifinals.
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GUTTED: Members of the NZ women's hockey team trudge off the turf following their shock loss to England in the Commonwealth Games semifinals.

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The New Zealand women's hockey team felt they had the game to topple the defending champion Australians and that, they say, makes yesterday's shock loss to England even worse.

The Black Sticks delivered a timid performance at the absolute worst time and instead of taking on Australia in the gold medal match, they were this morning to play South Africa for bronze.

For a team who believe they are on the improve and are close to being able to compete with the world's best on the regular, yesterday's Commonwealth Games loss in Glasgow was a major set-back.

It added further fuel to the argument that they're not a big game team. After playing well in Delhi four years ago, they were beaten in the final, albeit by a very handy Australian team.

In London two years ago the Black Sticks had been superb in getting through to the semifinals where they only lost to the world's top team, the Dutch, in a shootout.

But with a bronze medal on the line, they were limp against a Great Britain side featuring plenty of the current England squad.

Coach Mark Hager was at a loss to explain yesterday's defeat and the ''skittish and standoffish'' showing.

''I just don't know to be honest,'' he said.

No stone was left unturned, he said after the match which ended 1-1 before England won 3-1 in another shootout. They'd practised shootouts and addressed the issue of big game temperament.

It didn't work.  He conceded his side were ''probably'' psychologically off their game, but was unsure of the reason.

''We'd been playing well all week, but some of our girls went into their shells and I don't know why.''

Maybe the the pre-game talk of confidence was just that, talk. And they're just not as confident in their own abilities or of the team's as they say.

''Some of our players just need to get over that to be honest; you know, harden up. We knew they were going to come hard at us and unfortunately, we were very timid.''

While crestfallen players walked past him off the pitch, Hager couldn't contain his disappointment.

''We possibly had three good players on the pitch today. Out of 16. I haven't seen us play like that in the attacking third, just hitting and hoping it gets into the circle. I don't think we've ever done that.''

Hager said it was, again, back to the drawing board.

''Everyone needs to have a good hard look at themselves, myself included,'' he said.

''We just have to learn from it. Was it the right tactics, and why did we falls so flat?''

And that is the million dollar question. 

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