Black Stick Ladies set to medal at Glasgow Games
After a disappointing result at the World Cup, the Black Stick ladies are geared up for a medal at the Commonwealth Games. Finishing 5th with a 4-0 win over China in the qualification match, New Zealand finally found their range in the Hague – albeit a little too late. The girls flew back to Aotearoa for a small rest and then were back into training, knowing that two would be dropped for the Com Games. When the final team was released, striker Michaela Curtis and goalkeeper Bianca Russell were left out, to no real surprise, which left the remaining 16 World Cup players to prepare for the Games. Included in the training schedule was a light-hearted firing of balls at TV and Radio comedian Guy Williams who threw a low blow at field hockey, only to face the Black Sticks in a goal-shooting training!
In preparation for Glasgow, the girls flew to Dublin to compete in the Four Nations tournament against Canada, Chile and Ireland. As the dominant team, the girls beat Ireland 9-2, Chile 10-0 and Canada 7-0 to meet Ireland again in the final. The end score was 3-0 to the girls in black with Anita Punt being named Player of the Tournament with seven goals. A great lead in to the Com Games, the girls are full of spirits and look like they could be in good form – even if this post suggests otherwise.
New Zealand are ranked 2nd in the Commonwealth behind the Hockeyroos and in 2010, the Black Sticks fell to Australia through penalty shootout in the final to walk away with a consolation silver medal. The girls will be hoping to go one better this year against their arch rivals. In our pool are South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, India and Canada. In the other pool are Australia, Malaysia, England, Wales and Scotland. From the Rabo Hockey World Cup, Australia placed 2nd, New Zealand 5th, South Africa 9th and England 11th. The Black Sticks and their supporters back home will be hoping for a solid performance from the girls, with no slip ups (like Korea at the World Cup), and a place in the final against Australia.
Kayla Sharland, Emily Naylor, Krystal Forgesson, Anita Punt, Sally Rutherford and Sam Charlton will be key players throughout the Com Games campaign while Rhiannon Dennison and Sophie Cocks both stood out at the World Cup as big improvers. Katie Glynn and Stacey Michelsen will be looking to improve after mediocre performances at the World Cup after both coming back from serious knee injuries. With these two at full strength the girls could have one hand on a gold medal, but will have to prove they can deliver on the field.