For the first time in six Olympics Canterbury will be without a player in the women's hockey team.
From the first New Zealand team at Los Angeles in 1984 through to the last Olympics at Beijing in 2008 there has always been representation but there were none from Canterbury, or in fact the South Island, when national coach, Mark Hager, and his fellow selectors, Chris Leslie and Di TeAwa, named their 16-person side yesterday.
It could be viewed as a crisis for women's hockey in the province, which dominated the sport through the 1980s and 1990s, winning numerous national titles and barely being out of the final of the national championship for 15 years. But coach Mark Hager says there is no need for panic.
He says there is plenty of talent coming through in Canterbury, enough to make the red and blacks a competitive team at the national championship again.
"Regions go through cycles when they have so many good players it doesn't allow a lot of young ones to come through.
"Canterbury has done well at the national under-21 tournament in the last couple of years and have some talented players in their squad.
"Amelia Gibson (who was in the Black Caps squad but missed selection yesterday), Sian Fremaux, Olivia Merry and Rachel McCann are all from that under 21 group and their are five in the 2013 Junior World Cup squad."
Besides Gibson there were two other Canterbury players in the Olympic squad – Bridget Blackwood and Sophie Devine.
Gibson, a goalkeeper, is only 20, and lacked the experience of Bianca Russell who was selected, and Sally Rutherford who is a reserve who will stay outside the Olympic Village and cover for injury. Both Russell and Rutherford are in their 30s.
Most men's and women's coaches are including just one goalie in their team allowing them an extra field player.
At the World Cup and other major tournaments the teams are permitted 18 players. Only the Olympics are restricted to 16.
Hager said Blackwood and Devine lacked consistency in their play compared with Melody Cooper (formerly Rowe) and Samantha Charlton.
Cooper, 28, only joined the programme in January, leaving her job in Adelaide to move to the centralised training venue in Auckland to push her claims for the Olympic team. Cooper last played for the team three years ago.
"She is a bit more hard nosed because she has been around for a while," said Hager.
She captained the South Australian team to the national title last year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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