Hard & Fast: Black Sticks Struggle In Champions Trophy

There's been a general sense of optimism and hope surrounding the Black Sticks women as they've climbed up the world rankings and strung wins together with a young squad in the past few years. 

They were even heading into the Champions Trophy in London on the back of a big win in Darwin, where they beat Australia 2-0 in the final of the International Hockey Open. Things were looking good ahead of the Olympics.

Talk about a reality check. The Black Sticks women have got their Champions Trophy campaign off the a horrible start, going down 6-2 to Netherlands and losing 3-1 to Australia overnight which leaves them in last place with three games left.

That basically rules them out of finals contention as only 1st and 2nd will compete in the final.

Charlotte Harrison and Stacey Michelsen scored the two goals for New Zealand against the Dutch while Anita McLaren scored the lone goal against Australia.

While New Zealand enjoyed periods in both games in which they look good going forward, led a striking line that is up there with the best in the world, it's the defence that is a major concern right now. 

It's a young group at the back that has been doing the job for coach Mark Hager and this is reason to be hopeful as the likes of Brooke Neal, Liz Thompson, Julia King and Rose Keddell already have plenty of experience but against two of the top three teams so far. Turnovers coming out of their defence as well as conceding too many simple penalty corners has so far handed goal-scoring opportunities, which will always be pounced on at this level.

New Zealand have conceded the most goals after two games, letting 9 goals in so far.

Tomorrow the Black Sticks face Great Britain and this will be an interesting opportunity for the kiwis to right a few wrongs. GB have scored only 2 goals so far, the least of any team and how the kiwis respond to a poor start will provide plenty of intrigue with the bigger picture of the Olympics in mind.