Petrea Webster is Black Sticks' big improver
Two years after making her Black Sticks' debut, Petrea Webster appears to have finally established herself in the national squad.
The 25-year-old midfielder was one of the unlucky ones to miss out when coach Mark Hager named his 16-strong squad for last year's London Olympics.
Webster said while it was disappointing it provided her with a chance to assess her game and work out what areas she needed to finetune.
Over the past 12 months, Webster has been one of the biggest improvers in the New Zealand women's setup and is now a key component in the middle of the turf with her pace, aerobic fitness and distribution skills.
Webster put her development this year down to a sharper training ethic and more time in the gym. She felt like she belonged in international hockey, which was not always the case in her early games with the side.
"I'm feeling a lot more confident and getting a lot more gametime, which is great," she said.
"I've shaken those nerves off. I don't feel as stressed on the ball as I did back in 2011. It's nice to have a bit of consistency."
Webster and the Black Sticks begin their World League final campaign in Argentina on Sunday against China. The Black Sticks last played the Chinese in a series in Beijing in May last year, winning two of the three games. The Chinese are always an unpredictable outfit and are dangerous from penalty corner situations.
New Zealand will be eager to start the tournament strongly against China with hosts Argentina and Australia also in their group.
"It's going to be extremely tight. Every game is going to be a must-win for us," Webster said.
"A medal in this tournament would be ideal. I think we can definitely get there."
Black Sticks' captain Kayla Sharland said she had been impressed by Webster's growth as a player in 2013 and believed she had taken her play to another level.
"She's been going really well. She's getting more opportunities and is taking them.
"She has a really high workrate. One thing about 'P' is she always chases back hard and often gets a lot of steals for us."
The North Harbour product balances hockey with her fulltime position as a physical education teacher at Carmel College on the North Shore.
Webster admitted it was difficult trying to give everything she had to both, but said the school was extremely supportive of her hockey.
Next year, the Black Sticks' women face a jampacked schedule with the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Champions Trophy.
She would be taking some time off her job to focus on hockey. Webster said it was hard not to look ahead and be excited about the 2014 season.
"It will be a huge year and will be busy and challenging. It will be the biggest year of hockey for me. I've got to put everything into it."
- © Fairfax NZ News