Hard & Fast: Black Sticks Women x Hawkes Bay Cup

The Black Sticks women get their Hawkes Bay Cup campaign underway on Saturday at 3pm as they face India, before facing China at the same time on Sunday. 

Coach Mark Hager has named another strong squad, a settled squad that includes plenty of firepower up front along with an engine room that ensure that the kiwis are difficult to break down. 

Scoring goals shouldn't be an issue for the Black Sticks. Charlotte Harrison is in great form after leading the goal-scorers in the recent two Test series against Canada while Gemma Flynn, Sophie Cocks, Olivia Merry and Kirsten Pearce have all done the job in recent times up front. 

What will be interesting this weekend - especially against India and China who should be much better than Canada - is how the midfield and defence controls the game. Anita Punt was welcomed back for the Canada series and with her and Stacey Michelsen capable of steaming forward they will offer plenty of variety and punch in attack. 

Punt and Michelsen are able to attack freely because of a strong defensive presence both in the midfield and at the back. Coach Hager will be eager to see the Black Sticks keep India and China to as few goals as possible which will be an interesting test for a young but experience, and skillful defensive unit. 

The Black Sticks have been to Argentina, come back to face Canada and now host some of the world's best teams on home soil. This is the first tournament of the year though and it's crucial to get the tournament structure sussed ahead of the Olympics. We'll be back after the weekend with some results and observations.