Costs may hit Kiwis in Aussie hockey league

Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012
Mark Hager
MARK HAGER: "I think both countries would love it [a Kiwi team in the Australian league] but both countries are also aware that it needs to be viable."

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Black Sticks coach Mark Hager says financial restraints mean the prospect of fielding New Zealand teams in Australia's league may be wishful thinking.

The New Zealand women's team's stocks are at an all-time high, ranked third in the world after being pipped for a medal at the London Olympics.

Hager, an Australian, would like to see that momentum continued with a Kiwi presence in the AHL but was also understanding of the economic realities.

"I think both countries would love it but both countries are also aware that it needs to be viable," said Hager, who is preparing for a six-test series against India, starting in Napier on Saturday.

"That we don't just go into it without understanding the cost factors of it and making sure that it does work for us. Otherwise what could happen is we go into it and it's a one-year competition because we don't have the funds."

Hager said there was increasing "cross-pollination" between the two countries anyway, with Kiwi players representing AHL teams and Aussies turning out for New Zealand national league sides.

Hager also hoped Sport New Zealand's funding announcements later this month would allow him to plan a comprehensive international programme for next year and beyond.

In the meantime, Hager is aware of the need to "build again" with a squad including eight debutantes for the series against world No 12 India.

The tourists (average age 20) are even younger than New Zealand (22) although they do have more international experience (average caps 45 to 36).

Hager is counting on a leadership group of four (Katie Glynn, Stacey Michelsen, Gemma Flynn and Anita Punt) to guide the new faces, who include 23-year-old Capital captain Aniwaka Roberts.

"I thought she had a pretty good national league and she showed some skills and she's versatile in her playing positions," Hager said of Roberts. "She's a very good thinker on the ball and she throws some good, penetrating passes which is the style of game that we want to play. We want to attack and she brings that ability to our defence, to be able to outlet the ball. So hopefully she'll be able to step up to the international stage. We've jumped our ranking up to three, which is the highest the team's ever been I think but it's obviously more difficult to maintain . . . our priority is to give our eight debutantes a real baptism of fire and find out whether they can cut it on that stage."

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Black Sticks: Sam Charlton, Michaela Curtis, Gemma Flynn, Sian Fremaux, Amelia Gibson, Katie Glynn, Danielle Jones, Charlotte Harrison, Pippa Hayward, Rose Keddell, Julia King, Olivia Merry, Stacey Michelsen, Anita Punt, Cassandra Reid, Aniwaka Roberts, Sally Rutherford, Jenny Storey, Petrea Webster, Georgia Barnett

Six-test series:

Napier: Saturday and Sunday

Palmerston North: December 11 and 12

Wellington: December 14 and 15 

- The Dominion Post

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