Robert Creffier has been toiling away for a few years and now has a chance to take on Australia in the Trans-Tasman Trophy...
You recently got called up to the Black Sticks to face Australia so walk us through how you found out, what it was like telling your parents and the general buzz of making the squad?
I was all packed up after the NHL tournament earlier this year in September, ready to head back to England for another season and got a phone call telling me about my selection. It was an amazing feeling of course! There were many emotions going on all at once but just general stoke was the main one. Close relatives were all really happy for me knowing it's been a dream for years. It obviously meant I had to change my England travel plans quickly but Bowdon Hockey Club and my friends over there were all really supportive and happy for me.
What is your preferred position and is it different to the role you expect to play for the Black Sticks?
I prefer playing anywhere in the midfield and have done for quite a few years now so I imagine I'll feature in that area for the Black Sticks.
What are a few strengths in your game that form the foundation of how you play hockey?
The coaches I had growing up were always very big on discipline to stay on task and take care of small details and I think that probably comes out when I play. I would say my agility and speed in smaller pockets is also a strength of mine which my modest 5-foot-6" frame probably helps me with.
Is there a skill or area of the game that you are specifically working on at the moment?
There is always a need to work on elimination skills but generally I'm trying to be more aggressive and direct going forward.
Walk us through your hockey journey because it's a fairly interesting yarn up to this point...
Not your typical journey for sure; I got into hockey when I was 12 years old, fairly late some would say. I was terrible at football and was told to try hockey. It wasn't until I was around 17 when I gave up the tennis dream and decided I wanted to play hockey seriously. I got under the wing of master coach Greg Nicol. At 19 I was selected for the Junior Black Sticks squad and was picked for the tour to Malaysia we had that year in 2011. It definitely wasn't smooth sailing though. In 2012 I wasn't picked for any matches. In 2013 I shattered my thumb joint 4 months out from the Junior World cup and wasn't sure I would even be considered for selection. It healed well, I ended up going and being named captain of that Junior World Cup campaign which was really special.
For the last few years I've gone over to England to play in their league for the amazing Bowdon Hockey Club so I've seen a few winters. It's been a fun journey so far taking me to Malaysia, India, Australia and England to name a few. Let's hope theirs plenty more of that in the coming years.
What are some key differences in style between hockey in Aotearoa and in England that you noted?
I found the hockey in England to be much more about possession and passing. I think here in general we are a bit more aggressive in taking players on and trying to create things by dribbling and carrying the ball.
Did it take some time to adjust to hockey over there or was your game nicely suited to that style?
It was the temperature that took time to adjust to. It didn't take too long to get settled. I've played quite a few different positions so I think I can adapt to different styles quite well. It was more building combinations and relationships with a new set of team mates that took the most time but they are a great bunch of guys at Bowdon Hockey Club so it was easy to settle in.
If you're dribbling at someone, 1 v 1, what's your go-to move to beat the defender?
Let's not give away too much... but I seem to like the right to left fore-hand drag.
Any thoughts on how your ideal goal would look?
Reverse stick shot, top bin of course!
How does life on the fringe of the Black Sticks work?
It's definitely a balance you have to get right and stay on top of. Work has been great with allowing flexible working times around my hockey schedule. I find it best to make a plan at the start of a week of what I need to get done with my studies. With work and training it's important that if I make time to study, that I do it. If I miss an afternoon here or there it can become quite difficult to catch up during the week.
Do you have any key drills/skills/things that you fall back on or rely on when training by yourself or with some mates?
Anything game related. We are all so competitive so something where there is a winner and a loser always lifts the level you train at.
What is a piece of advice that you got, that you still rely on?
Ironically, the one bit of advice that sticks with me is that someone can only give you advice, they can't make decisions for you. At the end of the day you have to make decisions for yourself and live with those decisions good, bad, right or wrong. It's taught me to be independent.
What advice would you give a young athlete?
Have fun with whatever you do. It's the reason we all start playing a sport. Don't let that enjoyment go. Motivating yourself when you get older and play at a more serious level is much easier when you enjoy what you're doing.
You've got two weeks off from any hockey; where would we find you and what would you be doing?
Chances are I'll be in a cafe somewhere drinking coffee. Or I'll be on the golf course battling away. Sometimes even bringing coffee with me to drink during the round. That's happiness!
Favourite thing to eat when you've got to eat healthy 'cos your in camp?
Any kind of pasta bake I guess.
Favourite thing to eat when you're away from hockey?
Which player does things on a hockey field that has you in awe the most?
Right now it would have to be the big dog Stephen Jenness. The man hits a ball harder than I've ever seen a ball hit and scores some wicked goals in training. Get yourself out of the way.
The other guy that has me in awe is Mike Shaw, my good friend and team mate from Bowdon. Hell of a drag-flicker and penalty corner specialist but he misses field goals from an inch out - I don't know how he does it!
Favourite hockey stadium you've ever played at?
Unsure about a favourite but two that stand out would be Lee Valley Hockey Stadium in London and The Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, India.