Roberts defies sickness to make Black Sticks

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
Aniwaka Roberts

SURPRISED AND EMOTIONAL: Capital captain Aniwaka Roberts has just been named in the Black Sticks.

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Former Black Stick Niniwa Roberts was scrambling for some words of consolation when younger sister Aniwaka came calling.

With New Zealand coach Mark Hager due to announce his team for next month's six-test series against India, the initial tone of yesterday's phone conversation was not encouraging.

"When I rang her, she thought I didn't make it because I'd just finished crying," said a now-chuckling Aniwaka, one of eight new faces.

"I was a bit emotional about it. I must have sounded like I was going to give her bad news. But she was so happy. She played over 150 times for New Zealand so that's something to strive for. But there was a wee competition within the family - she made it at the age of 24 and I was able to make it at age 23. We had a bit of a joke about that."

Capital captain Roberts was surprised at her selection, given she had been suffering from tonsilitis during the trials.

But, instead of ruing her bad luck, Roberts took big sister's advice and hung tough.

"And I came right at the end of the trials. I had one game where I was able to play my best hockey and that must have been enough."

A bank teller by day, Roberts said she had to tweak her naturally relaxed demeanour if she was to achieve her dream of playing international hockey.

"Things had to change a little bit. I'm training a lot harder and more intense now. You have to grow up and realise if you want to make it that far you've got to mentally prepare and be physically prepared to work hard all the time. So not such a cruisy player any more."

A midfielder for Capital, Roberts was expecting to play a more defensive role for New Zealand.

Five of the eight new faces are from national league champions Canterbury, including Timaru schoolgirl Cassandra Reid.

The surprise omission is Samantha Harrison, demoted to the development squad.

Olympians Kayla Sharland, Krystal Forgesson, Bianca Russell and Emily Naylor are all on extended leave until early next year, giving Hager a chance to have a look at the next generation.

"They have matured a lot as athletes, and we believe they are ready to take the step up," he said.

The first two tests are in Napier (December 8-9), before carrying on to Palmerston North (Dec 11-12) and Wellington (Dec 14-15).

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- The Dominion Post

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