Canterbury blossoms with signing of Orchard
The Canterbury men's hockey team has pulled off a major coup for next month's national league campaign signing 150-cap Australian midfielder Simon Orchard.
Orchard, 28, has scored 46 goals for the Kookaburras since making his international debut in 2008. He will compete for Australia at next week's Commonwealth Games.
Orchard's career highlights include winning gold at the 2014 and 2010 World Cups. He has also been a part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal winning side and captured a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Canterbury men's coach Andrew Hastie was justifiably chuffed to secure a player of Orchard's standing and said he would be a key playmaker for the side.
"He's going to bring technical excellence and tactical nous. He's won two World Cups. He's a fantastic player and brings a lot of experience to the group. He's a world-class player all-round."
Orchard has previously played in the New Zealand domestic competition with North Harbour.
Hastie said they had targeted several Australian players and Orchard's name had come up as someone who was keen to play in the Kiwi competition.
Canterbury's other international guest player will be talented young Australian striker Nick Budgeon, who starred for Midlands in last year's NHL.
Budgeon missed out on Australia's Commonwealth Games squad, but has played 21 tests for the national side, scoring 11 goals.
He was their top goal-scorer at this year's Sultan Azlan Shah tournament and is known for his drag flicking prowess.
Youngsters Tom Mallon, Ed Cousins, Fergus Watts and Trevor Garrett all are set to debut for Canterbury this season.
Canterbury are aiming to build on a strong 2013 campaign, where they finished third.
The Canterbury women's squad boasts Black Sticks' Commonwealth Games members Jordan Grant, Sophie Cocks and Olivia Merry. Defender/midfielder Pippa Hayward will captain the team.
Veteran Canterbury player and former skipper Stacey Carr is not featuring this season because of pregnancy.
Canterbury, who won the title in 2012, will be determined to improve on last year's fourth-place finish.
Coach Aaron Ford said the Cats considered bringing in an import player, but were happy with the depth of players in the region. He was optimistic about their chances of doing well.
"The last two years, some of our girls have picked up a lot of caps for the Black Sticks. Hopefully, that can transfer back into the NHL campaign."
Both Canterbury sides open their season against Capital at St Bede's College's Marist Park on August 30. The following day, they take on Southern in Timaru, before the week-long tournament commences at North Harbour on September 6.
AT A GLANCE
Canterbury Cavaliers: Richard Bain, Nick Budgeon (Australia), George Connell, Ed Cousins, Willie Davidson, George Enersen, Trevor Garrett, Nick Haig, Cam Hayde, Mitchell Hayde, Willie Hayde, Tom Mallon, Matthew Moore, Simon Orchard (Australia), Brad Shaw, Jono Spence, Trent Summers, Fergus Watts
Canterbury Cats: Pippa Hayward (c), Bridget Blackwood, Georgia Blackwood, Tenille Burnside, Sarah Byers, Sophie Cocks, Sian Fremaux, Amelia Gibson, Jordan Grant, Melissa Harris, Hannah Hill, Libby Masefield, Rachel McCann, Olivia Merry, Jacqui Moorfield, Cass Reid, Jenny Storey, Sarah Walcott.