We've had some great results against our trans-Tasman rivals recently but unfortunately the Black Sticks ladies now find themselves in a position where they can only draw the series. On Saturday they gave up a 2 goal lead to finish up 2-2 with the Aussie girls, then on Sunday they fell in the dying moments with the Aussies knocking in a winner to make it 3-2 at full time.
Not ideal, but Mark Hager has been given a good opportunity to see his team's strengths and weaknesses on full display. As expected, the return of Stacey Michelsen is huge for this side as she has a bit of razzle dazzle that can create opportunities through the midfield. They look good on attack when they can get the ball humming between the likes of Michelsen and Anita Punt, but the work ethic and fitness of the ladies up front ensures that there has usually been someone in the right place at the right time.
Petrea Webster has been impressive, doing the hard yards on both attack while the same can be said for Ella Gunson and youngster Sophie Cocks continues to impress. It's been a good step up for the Kiwis after their series against the USA with Australia far more lethal on attack as well as being more efficient putting pressure on the ball. This is where it's been a wee bit difficult to watch the Black Sticks ladies with large portions of both games consisting of the Black Sticks missing traps, passing to Caspar or just caving in to the pressure of the Aussies. In the first game especially, the Kiwi girls couldn't get out from their own end as Katie Glynn in the commentary box (alongside Brian Waddle - hey Hockey NZ, I like hockey, I like talking hockey and I'm keen to be a commentary intern guy) pleaded with them to play small games, get some numbers in those confined areas and shovel the ball on to someone in a better spot. They kept getting stuck, isolated without too many options and when they had an option, it didn't work. It was a big part of their loss in the 2nd match as well as they couldn't just play smart, hold the ball and control the game. In the 1st game the consequences weren't so harsh.
However, they've looked pretty good. There's plenty of pace which we have come to expect from Hager's teams, but there's also plenty of skill and a bit of mongrel up front. Defensively, it's awesome to see a pretty young unit hold their own, despite thier inexperience showing on a few costly occasions
The 3rd and final game is tomorrow (Tuesday) so make sure you have a wee looksie, but don't forget the men are also in action - watch both live courtesy of Hockey NZ. I don't have a whole lot to add to my preview of the series, but I'm just excited to see a slightly revamped Black Sticks men's side in action. There's a lot of young talent who will be eager to impress, but there's also some strong leaders who won't let standards slip. Yey, hockey!
Ya know what's even more worthy of a "Yey, hockey!"? The Hockey India League, which is basically the IPL equivalent for hockey, a place where our hockey lads can go to play alongside the best in the world and obviously against them. Not to mention the nice pay packet they get, and deservedly so. The auction for the next installment took place over the weekend and both Andy Hayward and Shea McAleese were picked up, joining a number of other Black Sticks lads, so congrats to them. Hayward was snapped up by the Delhi Waveriders for $41,000 USD which is fair given his drag flick ability on top of his solid play around the turf, while McAleese fetched $18,000 USD as he joins the Uttar Pradesh Wizards. While the fancy guys get the big bucks, McAleese will be a great by as he's extremely solid, hard working and able to fill a variety of positions and roles.