Difficult choice looming for Black Sticks coach

17:00, Aug 03 2014

New Zealand women's hockey coach Mark Hager will weigh up a shot at his dream job against a shot at an Olympic medal in Rio with the Black Sticks.

New Zealand recovered from the disappointment of a semifinal loss to England at the Commonwealth Games to win bronze with a 5-2 victory over South Africa in the playoff for third yesterday.

The former Australian representative player has made no secret of his interest in the Australian men's coaching role, which became vacant following the surprise departure of Ric Charlesworth before the Commonwealth Games.

Hager, whose contract comes to an end in December, said he hadn't dedicated a lot of thought to his coaching future.

‘'I just wanted to get this out of the way before I sat down. I wanted to speak to some of the players; I've got to go home and speak to my family as well," he said.

‘'I really love this group. They are a fantastic group of girls. I still think they can win a medal in Rio, as long as we can keep the core group together and we can really push from behind."


Hager is sorely tempted by the chance to return to Australia to lead the team he played 231 games for from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

‘'Coaching roles don't come up that often. I'm not lying - it's my home, I played for the Kookaburras in many a game and one day it is my dream to coach them. Whether it's now, I'm not sure, or whether it's complete the role with these girls. Sometimes I think you can also have a used-by date with players and they get sick of the same repetition, and you can see sometimes you can lose them."

Black Sticks captain Kayla Whitelock will be unavailable for the next six months with husband George, a former All Black and Crusaders loose forward, playing rugby in Japan.

Jordan Grant scored two second half goals as the Black Sticks came from 2-2 with 20 minutes to go to bank a convincing win over the South Africans.

A big win in torrential conditions at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre had provided the team with something to savour after a disappointing campaign, Whitelock said.

‘'I know what it's like to go away from a tournament and come away with nothing. It's a pretty hollow feeling. To win your last game is pretty crucial and I'm glad the girls stepped up today."

Meanwhile, Australia beat England 4-2 in a penalty shootout to defend their Games title.