Black Sticks aim to build on silver medal effort
The men's Black Sticks want to regularly compete for medals at major tournaments after a silver medal showing at the World League hockey final.
New Zealand were outclassed 7-2 by the Netherlands in the final in New Delhi, but will be heartened with how they performed against the world's top hockey nations.
The Black Sticks were expected to battle it out for the minor placings at the inaugural World League final tournament, but fought their way through to the championship game after thrilling shootout wins over Argentina and England.
It was the first time the New Zealand men had played in the gold medal game of an elite tier-one tournament since the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
They met their match in the form of the Netherlands, who claimed silver at last year's London Olympics. The classy Dutch side dominated the first half and raced out to a 3-0 halftime lead, which was always going to be too hefty an advantage for the Black Sticks to make up.
New Zealand were for more assertive in the second half and netted twice through midfielder Steve Edwards, but the damage had already been done.
Constantijn Jonker was ruthless in front of goal for the Dutch, scoring a hat-trick, while Billy Bakker also struck twice.
New Zealand coach Colin Batch said his side would have taken a silver medal at the beginning of the tournament and admitted the challenge was to now show their effort in India was no fluke.
"Overall we're extremely proud of our silver medal and we have developed a lot throughout the tournament.
"It's very difficult to stay within the top four nations in the world and we've done that here, so that's something we're looking to make a regular thing."
The Black Sticks still have Nick Wilson, Brad Shaw, Cory Bennett, Shay Neal and Andy Hayward, who missed the World League final tournament through injury, to come back into the selection mix, which they will take comfort from. Experienced midfielder Shea McAleese was also forced out of the final after suffering a fractured eye socket in the semifinal win over England.
New Zealand face a hectic next few months with the side off to the Champions Challenge in Malaysia in April, which will be followed by the pinnacle event of the year, the World Cup in the Netherlands in late May. From there it will be onto the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where the Black Sticks will know they are more than capable of holding their own against the likes of Australia, England and India.
- © Fairfax NZ News