Black Sticks dismiss spy claims from Australia

JONATHAN MILLMOW IN LONDON
Last updated 22:42 24/07/2012
Kayla Sharland
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ

THE GAMES BEGIN: A relaxed Black Sticks captain Kayla Sharland during a press conference at the athletes' village in London.

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The Black Sticks have laughed off suggestions they have been spying on Australia ahead of their crucial first round women's hockey match at the Olympics.

The two sides square off on Sunday in a match that will shape their destiny at the tournament.

And Australia are convinced  the Black Sticks have secretly taped two of their training  sessions, one in New Zealand and more recently in London last week.

The report in Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper went on to say Australia even checked the identity of a film crew in the stands in London last week, believing they may have been sent by the Kiwis to get video of the Hockeyroos' penalty corner variations.

They were later identified as Argentinian media.

Black Sticks coach Mark Hager burst into laughter when told of the claim.

"We were in France (last week)," Hager said.

Ironically Hager is an Australia, having been to three previous Olympics as a player and two as an assistant coach.

New Zealand and Australia are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, in the world. Hager hit back, saying the Aussies must be feeling the pressure.

"From my point of view it is great, they are obviously concerned about us. I know we haven't been doing that," Hager said.

"The only filming we have been doing was when we played the Four Nations, when we played each other, and the other games (Australia played at the tournament).

"It gives us a little bit of confidence that they know we are going to be a challenge and that is plus for us."

Hager joked he may wind up Australian coach Adam Commens, when they next cross paths.

"I will have a bit of sledge or a jest in jest with Adam and some of their staff," Hager added.

"I know them very well. We were going to send Ian Hicks, our video guy, who is an Aussie, to say "hi" and take a couple of pictures."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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