In-form Black Sticks to bolster Midlands

KEY PERFORMER: Midland's Clarissa Eshuis has been a standout for the Black Sticks in London.
KEY PERFORMER: Midland's Clarissa Eshuis has been a standout for the Black Sticks in London.

The Midlands women's side will look to capitalise on the red-hot form of their Black Sticks when they contest the National Hockey League this month.

The Bayley's Midlands squad will contain three members of the New Zealand women's team which contested the bronze medal match against Great Britain in London overnight. Clarissa Eshuis, Cat Finlayson and Samantha Charlton will return from the Games to compete for the Hymie Gill-coached side - although they may not contest both of the opening weekend matches - while goalkeeper Sally Rutherford has also been in London on standby for the national side.

While fellow Black Sticks striker Gemma Flynn won't return for the NHL, Midlands will be bolstered by the presence of German import Nicole Pahl for the tournament, which starts next weekend.

Pahl, from Cologne, won the German indoor and outdoor championships with her club side this year, and was part of the national under-21 side at the 2007 Junior European Cup and the 2009 Junior World Cup.

Former international Kate Mahon and Midlands regulars Shiloh Gloyn, Tori Horsley, Kate Kernaghan and Kim Tanner will ensure Gill has his eyes on the title after finishing third last season.

The Midlands men's side will contest the NHL without Black Sticks Andy Heyward and Richard Petherick, while the absence of former national representative Casey Henwood will mean new coach Brent Edwards will field a youthful side.

However, the presence of Black Stick defender Blair Hopping and two top Australians will give Midlands an edge after they too won bronze last year.

Tim Deavin is currently in the Australian men's side also playing off for bronze in London while Scott Hughes, a key member of the Australian Hockey League side Southern Hotshots since 2007, is a former Junior Kookaburra.

Edwards' troops will also feature tested veterans in Lloyd Stephenson, Stephen Graham, Ricky Clark and Lincoln Churchill, along with a number of exciting young players.

Both Midlands sides begin their campaign next Saturday when they host North Harbour at the Gallagher Hockey Centre, before heading north to meet Auckland the next day before tournament week begins on August 25.

Waikato Times