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Parents still the biggest fans

Waipipi’s Blair Hopping

Last updated 15:37 18/07/2012
TEAM STALWART: Blair Hopping has played more than 250 games for the Black Sticks.
Fairfax NZ

TEAM STALWART: Blair Hopping has played more than 250 games for the Black Sticks.

EARLY DAYS: Parents of New Zealand Black Stick’s defender and Olympic hope Blair Hopping, Lois and Roy reflect back on their son’s early hockey days growing
EARLY DAYS: Parents of New Zealand Black Stick’s defender and Olympic hope Blair Hopping, Lois and Roy reflect back on their son’s early hockey days growing up in Waipipi.

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It’s been 12 years since he made his debut for the New Zealand hockey team so you can be sure his parents have seen it all.

Waipipi’s Blair Hopping first played for the Black Sticks in 2000 against Pakistan and his parents Roy and Lois were on the sideline full of pride.

Now more than a decade down the track Hopping has been selected to represent New Zealand at the Olympics Games in London, for the third and what could be final time.

Although they will not be going to London for the Games, Roy and Lois remain their son’s biggest supporters.

"We are not going this year, we haven’t been to the Olympics but we  have been to a couple of other things," Roy said.

The opportunities given to the pair while Blair has been in the national squad have been huge and said they have been to Germany, Kuala Lumpur and Australia to name a few.

They have recently returned from Cairns watching Blair play in the pre-Olympic three-test series against Australia during which Blair notched up his 250th game for his country.

"The thing with the Olympics is that it’s extraordinarily expensive so this time we are just sending our representative over – Blair," said Roy.

Supporting their son will come from home, where they plan to record and watch every game of his during the Olympics.

"We will be recording them all and I will be watching them about three of four times each," Lois said.

"‘We will make a copy of them and put them in to the archives."

And it’s an archive full of bits and pieces, memorabilia and photos from the 32-year-old’s long career in New Zealand hockey.

It’s a career that started at a young age growing up in Waipipi with his older brother Tony, his hockey-playing mum and sport-mad dad.

"It was my sport first and they [Blair and Tony] used to come along on the sideline watching and then they both took it up," Lois said.

"They have enjoyed it, it’s not a sport that we forced on them, they enjoyed it right through."

Going to the small country school in Waipipi meant Blair played his junior hockey for Sandspit Rd School where there were enough numbers to make a team.

From there he made his journey through to playing hockey for Waiuku College and Counties Manukau age group representative teams.

Although he now lives out of Franklin, Roy and Lois said he owed a lot to his local upbringing and coaching from the likes of Andrew Massey at Waiuku College.

"I think he was very lucky because at the start he was noticed as having the skills and he had great coaching right from the beginning," Roy said.

"Andrew Massey really had a lot to do with his early development but certainly he made the team through Counties Manukau.

If not for his time in the Counties Manukau Hockey Association systems his parents believe Blair may not have been noticed for the talents that have now lead him to 250 plus games for New Zealand.

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"He did not leave the area and play in Auckland to make a name for himself, and going to Waikato University was a big move for him because it meant he made it into the Midlands team,’’ Roy said.

An advisor for Midlands and ex-New Zealand hockey coach Kevin Towns led him to be selected into the national team.

Roy and Lois said the highlight of their son’s sporting career so far came when he first ran out on to the field against Pakistan in 2000.

"I remember that there were other supporters there and because it was the first game for Blair the group started yelling out for him," Lois said. "Also when he walked out for New Zealand with the flag in front of them."

For Roy it’s a thing of pride.

"I think that nothing changes it, if you read his name in the paper or see him live or on TV, it’s a sense of pride I guess in terms of everything that he has achieved,’’ Roy said.

"It’s like when a little girl gets up and sings on stage, it does not matter if she’s out of tune.

"He has been New Zealand player of the year in the past but in my view he is every year."

- Waikato Times


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