Inexperienced Black Sticks women for London

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 16:34 15/06/2012
Black Sticks women
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
HEADING TO LONDON: Black Sticks (from left) Anita Punt, Cathryn Finlayson, Charlotte Harrison and Samantha Harrison at the New Zealand women's team's announcement for the Olympics.

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Mark Hager has named an inexperienced, but capable, women's Black Sticks squad for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Today the national women's coach confirmed his 16 names for the London Games, anchored around four players with previous Games experience.

The team includes two three-time Olympians, captain Kayla Sharland and co-captain Emily Naylor, and two others - Krystal Forgesson and Gemma Flynn - who will both be making their second Olympic appearances.

One of the toughest calls Hager had to make was at goalkeeper, with each nation permitted to include just one in the squad, with another travelling as reserve only.

Bianca Russell, who missed out on selection for both the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, has this time made the cut ahead of Sally Rutherford.

Hager, with fellow selectors Chris Leslie and Di Te Awa, said there were also a number of other difficult selections, including a battle between some talented defenders and midfielders.

"We have selected a well-rounded team that is versatile, quick and has players that have a high work ethic," Hager said.

"They're also probably the most united group of players I've worked with. What's best for the team always comes well above any personal goals."

Hager said the Black Sticks women, ranked sixth in the world, were realistic about their medal chances in London despite winning bronze at last year's Champions Trophy.

"We're under no illusions about how tough it will be to win a medal. They're calling our pool the 'pool of death.' The girls know they will have to play consistently well to win a medal," he said.

Joining New Zealand in Pool B is Argentina, Germany, Australia, United States and South Africa.

Midfielder Julia King and goalkeeper Rutherford will both head to London with the team but will be based outside the Olympic village as P-accredited players. This means that if one of the 16 Olympic team members is injured, either Rutherford or the versatile King will be called on as a permanent replacement for the injured player.

Blacks Sticks: Kayla Sharland (c), Emily Naylor, Krystal Forgesson, Katie Glynn, Alana Millington, Ella Gunson, Sam Charlton, Clarissa Eshuis, Sam Harrison, Cathryn Finlayson, Gemma Flynn, Charlotte Harrison, Melody Cooper, Bianca Russell, Stacey Michelson, Anita Punt.

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- Fairfax Media

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