Black Sticks captain retires, picks Rio medal

MATT RICHENS IN GLASGOW
Last updated 06:52 04/08/2014
Dean Couzins
ROBERT KITCHIN/ Fairfax NZ

Departing Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins believes his team will be a medal contender at the 2016 Olympics.

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Departing New Zealand men's hockey captain Dean Couzins believes the Black Sticks are a genuine medal threat at the Rio Olympics despite leaving the Glasgow Commonwealth Games empty-handed.

Shortly after New Zealand lost their bronze medal match with England in a penalty shootout, Couzins announced his retirement to his team-mates.

The Rio qualification tournament was only nine months away, but Couzins, 33, said there were enough good signs the side would be well placed for a shot at their first Olympic medal since the gold won in Montreal in 1976.

"My feeling is the team is tracking well and improving," he said.

"It's really disappointing this group doesn't have more to show for what we've been doing recently.

"We got a silver medal at the World League Finals. That's the top eight teams in the world and we finished second. Obviously, other times we haven't done so well."

Consistency and execution were the team's major must-do-betters, but generally, he said, the signs were good.

"There's a real openness and honesty in the group at the moment," he said.

"Those are the things you build a good team on.

"We still have those issues about consistency where we play three or four very good games in a row then have that off-game like we did against India [in the Games' semifinal on Saturday].

"We have to use games like that and learn. Hopefully it's a bit of a turning point for these guys, especially the young guys.

"It hurts and it will hurt for a while and it should, but the guys need to look at it and realise we need to keep getting better.

"If we want to medal at these tournaments and other tournaments and reach our goals, we have to win games like that Indian one.

"In some regards you have to learn from it and turn it into a positive; if you dwell on it you're going to be a miserable bunch."

On his retirement, Couzins said it was a tough decision.

"If you're going to keep playing now you have to commit through to Rio and I just couldn't do that," Couzins told Radio Sport.

"It feels like the right time. I've spent a lot of time agonising over this decision.

"I'm going to miss it like heck and I'll miss playing with these guys. I'm so proud to have been involved with New Zealand hockey for as long as I have."

Couzins, originally from Canterbury, started his representative hockey in Dunedin then moved to Auckland and is the second most-capped New Zealand hockey player with 318 caps. He first played for New Zealand in 2001 and attended three Olympics and four Commonwealth Games.

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