After a youngish Black Sticks group got 2017 rolling and then went on to compete at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, Black Sticks Men's coach Darren Smith has integrated established internationals back into the fold. Smith named his squad for the World League Semi Final in South Africa and while there's a hefty list of players unavailable through injury led by Simon Child, the strength of kiwi hockey continues to show.
Youngsters David Brydon and Sam Lane keep their spots and the youngest member of the squad Hayden Phillips is back after an injury lay-off. Phillips is only 19-years-old but he's quickly settled into international hockey and he'll be an attacking presence in a midfield that also consists of Nick Ross, George Muir and Marcus Child.
Arun Panchia has captained the team from the back for much of this year and with Shea McAleese, Nic Woods, Blair Tarrant and Nick Haig returning, Panchia could move into a defensive midfield position. Brydon adds some depth to the defensive group and with Kane Russell charging forward down the right, Tarrant's likely return to a left-defender position gives the Black Sticks an impressive balance to their defensive unit.
Stephen Jenness held things down along with Panchia over the past few months and he'll have some firepower up front with Hugo Inglis returning. Jared Panchia and Jacob Smith also return from their European duties and Sam Lane rounds a group of strikers that is likely to be led by an Inglis, Jenness, Panchia/Smith line. Coach Smith will probably need some big minutes out of Inglis and/or Jenness, so how the strikers are rotated will be an interesting observation for hockey nerds.
Devon Manchester will be the numero uno goal-keeper, with Richard Joyce as his back up.
Both Black Sticks teams have refreshed their squads after the Olympics, although even before the Olympics they both had a talented young core who had gained plenty of experience. For the lads, McAleese is the only player named over 30yrs, Haig is next at 29yrs but the rest of the squad is under 27yrs and of that group under 27 there are only three players with less than 50 caps.
Here's a guess at how the lads could line up...
G: Manchester (Joyce).
D: Russell, Haig, McAleese, Tarrant (Woods, Brydon).
M: Child, Panchia, Ross, Phillips (Muir, Woods).
S: Inglis, Jenness, Panchia (Smith, Lane).
The Black Sticks women suffered defeat in their third Test, going down 3-1. The glorious Youtube channel that had the replays hasn't quite updated yet so I can't offer any replays, I did manage to find a podcast with Black Stick Pippa Hayward, which is a pretty insightful listen. Hayward breaks down her hockey journey, but also breaks down how damn difficult it is for kiwi hockey players to dedicate themselves to playing international hockey and how she worked through her anxiety.