Black Sticks men's head coach Colin Batch has named five new faces in his 2013 national squad as well as experienced players from this year's Olympic team.
North Harbour's Cory Bennett, James Coughlan and George Muir as well as Auckland's Devon Manchester and Alex Shaw have all had the callup, having been in the 2012 Development Squad.
One of two debutants named, Muir said when he read the email last night he was scanning the Development Squad list so was pretty surprised when he spotted his name higher up the list.
"To be one of the 25 players is a highlight of the year for me, and a pretty nice Christmas present," said Muir, who has just finished his first year of Law and Commerce at Auckland University. The other highlight for Muir was being selected in the Junior Black Sticks team that went to Malaysia and having the chance to experience international competition for the first time.
"The increase in pace and intensity at that level, the skill level of the other countries and just seeing what is required to take the step up was a great learning experience. Add to that the heat, crowd and atmosphere of the event and you start to realise what is required to play at an international level," says Muir who is also hoping to get named in the 2013 Junior World Cup team.
"To play for my country and debut would be amazing - if I get the chance to play in a home test series it would be pretty special, to be selected for any other team is really just a bonus," says Muir.
The only other debutant named in the side is North Harbour team-mate Bennett and Muir agrees it will be good to have someone he knows well when he starts training with the side in the new year.
The two players not included from the Olympic team are Kyle Pontifex and Ryan Archibald, who have made themselves unavailable for next year.
Batch said the recent FIH 2013 Champions Trophy in Melbourne gave him a chance to get to know the players and he said the 25 picked had the talent he was looking for.
"We have a lot of work to do next year to get the results we want, and I believe that this group has what it takes, we just need to put in the hard yards.
Training for the new squad begins in the week starting January 14, with the key event for the year being the World League Round Three which is scheduled to be in Europe in June but is still to be confirmed.
- © Fairfax NZ News