Rapid rise for 21-year-old Black Sticks striker
Canterbury striker Sian Fremaux still finds it hard to believe how remarkable the past 12 months have been.
Fremaux, 21, has been one of the big movers in New Zealand hockey, making her senior debut for the Black Sticks women's side last December against India, scoring her first international goal, and competing at the World League Semi-Final tournament in the Netherlands last month.
She was also a pivotal member of the Canterbury Cats side, who were unbeaten in last year's women's national league and claimed the title. Fremaux then won another national title, with the Canterbury under-21 side, earlier this year.
The talented youngster is in her last year of eligibility with the New Zealand under-21 team, and will be one of five Canterbury players in the Junior Black Sticks squad for their World Cup, beginning in Monchengladbach, Germany, next Sunday.
The Junior Black Sticks will face Russia first in pool play, before playing India and Australia. If results go their way, they will then head to the quarterfinals where they are likely to play either England or Germany.
Fremaux admitted it had been a rapid rise to the top, and said matching up against the might of the Netherlands and Germany at the World League last month, had been an incredible experience.
"It's been pretty crazy. I'm trying to get used to everything. It's been awesome - the travelling, playing against the best players in the world. You watch some of them on TV, and then you're playing against them. It's pretty awesome."
Fremaux is one of six national squad members in the Junior Black Sticks' side, and said she was confident about their prospects in Germany.
New Zealand finished a disappointing 10th four years ago at the Junior World Cup, and she said they were setting the bar high and targeting a medal this time around.
"We've got a pretty promising team, which is really exciting. We want to go over there and compete, and try and get a medal.
"It's always exciting to go over and play with your own age-group."
Fremaux gained the attention of the Black Sticks' senior selectors after starring for Canterbury in last year's national league, and then impressing at trials.
Her call-up to the national side had come much quicker than she expected, and made her more hungry to represent her country at major tournaments in the future.
Fremaux was full of nerves in her first few games for the Black Sticks, but said she felt much more comfortable after the team's first Four Nations tournament in Whangarei in April.
She finished as the top goal-scorer with four strikes, which included a double in the final against Korea.
Her competent play saw her gain a spot in the Black Sticks' squad for the World League Semi-Finals - the biggest international tournament she had played in.
"Rotterdam is such a hockey hub. You learn heaps playing the best teams in the world. You get a sense of where you want to be, and what you need to work on," she said.
Fremaux will be in for a busy time, after the Junior World Cup.
She will try to help Canterbury defend their NHL silverware, and was excited about playing a national league game in Christchurch, for the first time since the earthquakes. The Canterbury men's and women's sides host Central at St Bede's College's Marist Park on August 11.
Fremaux will also be aiming to gain selection for the Black Sticks' squad for October's Oceania Cup, and the World League Final tournament in Argentina in December.
Next year, promises to be a huge year for New Zealand hockey, with the Commonwealth Games, World Cup and Champions Trophy tournaments.
New Zealand Junior Black Sticks: Jenny Storey, Rachel McCann, Cass Reid, Sian Fremaux, Sophie Cocks (Canterbury), Sarah Matthews, Elizabeth Thompson, Danielle Sutherland, Julia King (Auckland), Georgia Barnett, Michaela Curtis (Central), Brooke Neal, Kim Tanner, Rosie Keddell (Midlands), Rhiannon Dennison, Erin Goad (North Harbour), Phillipa Symes (Southern), Genevieve Macilquham (Capital).