Sharland: Crazy hockey calendar taking its toll

Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Kayla Sharland wonders whether in future international hockey players will be able to survive the crazy match schedules.

Now aged 28, the New Zealand captain brought up her double century of tests for the Black Sticks at the World League in Argentina last week.

And her good friend, Emily Naylor, who bypassed that trip, is sitting on 225 tests and advancing on Suzie Muirhead's record of 238.

But ask Sharland about her upcoming schedule and it will be almost continuous until the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in July-August. And the hockey players are hardly professionals.

A New Zealand team goes to the United States in February for a Four Nations tournament, then has a Six Nations tourney in Hawke's Bay before a four-week block of "centralisation" when the players must up sticks and shift to Auckland.

It doesn't stop there. Then there is the World Cup against the top 12 nations at The Hague in The Netherlands before a three-week break leading into the Commonwealth Games.

"It makes it pretty tough; there are a lot more games these days," Sharland said.

When she started in 2003, there were about 20 tests a year. That has doubled since.

"Some teams play more than that, over 40, which is crazy.

"It does take its toll on people's bodies, the training and the game is so much quicker now."

Sharland has had her knee troubles throughout her career, but in the past two years has managed the knee in the gym and in both years was nominated the world player of the year. This year's has yet to be picked.

She knows she won't go on forever, maybe not to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

"I will focus on next year and see how it goes," she said.

She said hitting the 200 mark was special because it was her last game as a Sharland. By the end of the month she will be Kayla Whitelock when she weds Canterbury rugby player George Whitelock in Palmerston North. Naylor will be her maid of honour.

In Tucuman, Argentina, Sharland said she "felt pretty old", but she was only the third-oldest player in the team and was scoring goals, including the winner in her 200th test in the 1-0 victory over China. Fairfax NZ

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