Australian named new Black Sticks coach
The men's Black Sticks have appointed Colin Batch as their new coach.
Hockey New Zealand announced this morning the former Australian player, "highly respected and recognised as a world-class coach", has taken the reins after Shane McLeod quit following a poor Olympic campaign.
Batch has been head coach of the Belgium men's team for the last two years and assistant to the Australian men's team for eight years, which included two successful Olympic campaigns.
Hockey NZ chief executive Hilary Poole said she is delighted with the appointment.
"Colin is going to be a huge asset. He has a wealth of hockey experience in various coaching roles, including being part of the gold medal-winning Australian team at the 2004 Athens Olympics," Poole said.
"Colin is known for his strong, calm leadership both on and off the field and for bringing a level of commitment, professionalism and success to the teams he coaches.
"We wanted to attract someone who had achieved results as a head coach, had worked in more than one high performance programme, had the ability to develop, lead and maintain a strong team culture - and Colin has all of these qualities and more."
Batch's Australian counterpart Mark Hager has done a good job of turning around the New Zealand's women's team, taking them from 12th in the world to the brink of a medal at London 2012.
And it's a similar position Batch inherits his job, with the men's Black Sticks finishing ninth at the 2012 Games, well below expectation.
Batch said he is excited about the opportunity and is looking forward to leading the men's programme through to the next Olympic cycle in Rio 2016.
"I am very excited to be taking up the challenge of improving the Black Sticks world ranking. I will enjoy working with new players and determining their strengths and weaknesses and developing their talent," Batch said.
"This opportunity presented at the right time for me after having achieved much success within the Belgium hockey programmes, both club and national teams.
"While I will miss being based in Europe, I welcome the opportunity to be back closer to my home country. With both the New Zealand teams having Australian coaches, I am sure the good natured rivalry between Australia and New Zealand will continue."
Poole says there was strong national and international interest in the role, including several candidates from higher-ranked programmes applying.
Batch begins his role as head coach in early November, contracted until the end of 2016.
He will select players and lead the team at the FIH Champions Trophy in Melbourne with the man he replaces, McLeod, "assisting with this transition".
McLeod is set to relocate to Belgium.