Four rookies named in Black Sticks men's squad

Last updated 13:06 15/11/2012
Dean Couzins
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
CAPTAIN: Dean Couzins will once again lead the Black Sticks at the Champions Trophy.

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New men's Black Sticks coach Colin Batch has named four rookies in his first squad for next month's Champions Trophy in Melbourne.

Batch, who replaced Shane McLeod after a disappointing Olympic campaign saw the national men's team fall well below expectation at London 2012 in ninth, has named three uncapped players and goalkeeper Hamish McGregor who has one cap.

A number of Olympians are missing from the squad for the prestigious upcoming tournament, including Kyle Pontifex, Ryan Archibald, Brad Shaw and Richard Petherick.

Petherick is injured while Batch said the other four are unavailable for either personal or work-related reasons.

In total Batch has selected eight 'new' players from McLeod's Olympic squad including debutants Jacob Smith (Capital), Alex Shaw (Auckland) and goalkeeper Devon Manchester (Auckland).

Batch says it's time for fresh blood to be given an opportunity.

"There are a number of players who I believe need a shot - some just missed out on Olympic selection, others are younger players who I think have real talent and something to offer this side going forward," Batch said, who was head coach for Belgium at the London Olympics.

"There will be opportunities next year for other athletes to prove themselves. We will obviously continue to search and develop talent so we have players really pushing and competing for national selection."

Dean Couzins has been re-appointed as captain for the Champions Trophy and Batch says a leadership team will be appointed before the side departs for Australia on November 25.

With a number of players competing in the European club season, and only returning to New Zealand on November 21, there will be just a short time spent together as a team before they depart.

"Ideally we would have had a longer build-up, but because of the Olympics and the timing of the Champions Trophy with the European season, we will spend the week we have focussing on set pieces and team cohesion," Batch said.  

The week after the team returns from Melbourne, a 2013 national squad of 25 players will be announced alongside a development squad of 10 players. 

Starting on December 1, the Champions Trophy will see the Black Sticks take on Olympic gold medallists Germany, England (ranked fourth), and India (ranked 11th) in their pool, before progressing to the qualification rounds.

Australia, Netherlands, Belgium and Pakistan are in Pool B. The finals are on December 9.

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