Photo: FIH/Getty Images
With the chapter coming to a close on 2017, we look back on a year which brought plenty of milestones on and off the turf.
New Year off to an honourable start
The year opened with great news that retired Black Sticks legends Phil Burrows and Katie Glynn had been recognised in the 2017 New Year honours. Burrows and Glynn were both made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for their services to hockey.
Burrows, New Zealand’s most capped Black Sticks player of all time, announced his retirement from international hockey in November 2016 following a whopping 343 tests in a career which saw him compete at three Olympic Games (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012), four Commonwealth Games (Manchester 2002, Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014) and four World Cups (Kuala Lumpur 2002, Monchengladbach 2006, Delhi 2010, The Hague 2014).
Striker Katie Glynn announced her retirement from the international game in November 2015 following struggles with knee and back injuries. Debuting in 2009, Glynn played 134 tests for New Zealand and scored 77 goals making her New Zealand’s second highest female goal scorer of all time.
Ushering in a new era
In January the new men’s and women’s National Squads were named, demonstrating the first step forward in the new Olympic cycle following the 2016 Rio Games.
Head coach Mark Hager named a women’s squad grounded by a core of experienced athletes with nine having played over 100 tests while versatile defender Stacey Michelsen was the most capped (216). After performances at the FIH Junior World Cup and a test series against Malaysia in Stratford, 20-year-old Midlands defender Frances Davies earned a call up while goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon added to the mix having previously living and playing her hockey in Australia.
Meanwhile, the men’s squad retained plenty of experience along with some exciting young prospects in 2017. The group was led by four players with more than 200 tests caps in Simon Child (274), Shea McAleese (243), Nick Haig (200) and Arun Panchia (205) with plenty of experience alongside them. Canterbury defender David Brydon and Auckland striker Kim Kingstone were the new faces having been named to the National Squad for the first time.
Along with the playing group, it was a changing of the guard in the coaching position with previous head coach Colin Batch departing for Australia and former New Zealand international Darren Smith coming onboard to lead the men’s programme.
A fresh Vantage point
February marked a hugely significant milestone for Hockey New Zealand with a new partnership with Vantage Windows & Doors as the naming rights sponsor of the Vantage Black Sticks Men and Women. The four year deal gave both teams a major boost as they switched focus to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The team at APL are hugely engaged partners and sports fanatics, with other sponsorships including the Kiwi rowing pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, Avantidrome, Cycling NZ, Chiefs rugby team, New Zealand rally drivers Emma Gilmour and Ben Hunt, Josh Coppins Motocross Team, Altherm Jetsprint Team and the New Zealand Jetsprint Championship.
Testing the waters
The early months of the year saw the Vantage Black Sticks Men and Women take to the turf for the first time with their new squads.
The women headed to Buenos Aires for a six test series against Argentina, coming home in a positive frame of mind despite surrendering the series with one win, three losses and a draw.
In March the Vantage Black Sticks Men hosted Pakistan across five games in Wellington and Wairarapa taking away plenty of learnings. Pakistan were impressive throughout the series and took away honours with two wins, two draws and one loss although the Kiwis showed flashes of brilliance especially from some of the young guns.
In April the Vantage Black Sticks Women retained the Hawke’s Bay Cup by defeating Japan 3-0 in the final of the Vantage Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey.
New Zealand came in as top qualifier from round robin with three wins from six matches. Japan also had three wins but had lost three games to finish two points behind in second place. The 2017 final was a repeat of 2016 where the Kiwis beat Japan 2-1.
It was also a good start to the year for the North Harbour Men and Midlands Women who came away with the Vantage National Under 21 Tournament titles.
Big support for Masters
2017 was a big year for Masters thanks to the World Masters Games which saw 105 team take part across age groups from 35 right through to 65+.
Soon afterward the Trans-Tasman Challenge took to the turf in Whangarei with great success while the National Masters Tournament closed out a busy but eventful year in November.
A nod to the greats
Vantage Black Sticks veterans Kayla Whitelock and Shea McAleese took supreme honours at the annual Hockey New Zealand awards dinner.
The awards recognised high performance athletes as well as various members of the community for their outstanding contributions to hockey during the 2016 calendar year.
Former Vantage Black Sticks captain Kayla Whitelock, now retired, was named Women’s Player of the Year while experienced midfielder/defender Shea McAleese took out Men’s Player of the Year.
Midlands midfielder Nic Woods won Men’s Under 21 Player of the Year while Southern’s Tessa Jopp accepted Women’s Under 21 Player of the Year.
The Players’ Player of the Year was selected by other squad members to acknowledge contributions both on and off the turf, with Blair Tarrant and Kayla Whitelock taking out the awards.
Along with community awards, the evening was highlighted by the acceptance presentation to David Appleby who was voted in as a Life Member of Hockey New Zealand at last year’s AGM.
Hockey New Zealand icon Ramesh Patel was voted in as a Life Member at this year’s AGM and will formally accept his award next year.
As part of the awards, the Hari family accepted a Gold Service award for 20+ years’ service to the sport on behalf of their father Govan who passed away in early 2017.
Inclusion in the Pro League
In June the International Hockey Federation (FIH) confirmed that both the Vantage Black Sticks Men and Women will be part of the ‘game-changing’ Hockey Pro League.
The new league, which is due to launch in January 2019, will see the nine best men’s and women’s teams from around the world play each other both at home and away every year, across a total of 144 games. The fixtures will take place in national stadiums, week in, week out, from January to June.
Bronze medal in Brussels
The Vantage Black Sticks Women came away with the bronze medal after defeating Korea 1-0 at the World League Semi Final in July.
Having come painfully close to making through to the final, the Kiwis kept their composure in the bronze medal match in a tight encounter with very few chances for either side. Defender Brooke Neal provided the pivotal strike with a penalty corner flick just six minutes from fulltime.
Central and Canterbury on top
The Central Women and Canterbury Men won 2017’s Vantage National Under 18 Tournament titles at the Whangarei ITM Hockey Centre.
In an intriguing finals day, Central and Canterbury contested both the Men’s and Women’s gold medal matches with each region coming away with a trophy.
In the Women’s final, Central mustered a 4-1 win over Canterbury thanks to a Megan Phillips double as well as goals from Anna Crowley and Kaitlin Cotter. Canterbury’s lone goal came from Emily Wium in the second quarter, which saw the score level 1-1 at halftime. Central then scored three unanswered goals in the third quarter to put the result beyond doubt.
Meanwhile, Canterbury won the Men’s final in an emphatic 6-0 victory against Central with Tim Schulpen and Henry Phelps both scoring braces along with goals from William Mace-Cochrane and Moss Jackson. Canterbury were dominant throughout, delivering three goals in the first half and pouring on three more in the final five minutes of the match.
Tough campaign in Johannesburg
It was a tough World League Semi Final for the Vantage Black Sticks Men in Johannesburg, finishing sixth overall after being edged 1-0 by Ireland in their classification playoff.
Both sides were locked in a goalless stalemate for most of the game before Ireland delivered the winning strike with a 49th minute field goal from Alan Sothern. The result saw the New Zealand Men miss an opportunity for automatic qualification for the Hockey World Cup as well as the World League Final in December this year.
In the weeks to come however, positive news would come for the Vantage Black Sticks Men with results at the continental qualifiers opening a spot for them at next year’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
Ford National Hockey League
Midlands won the women’s K Cup while North Harbour came away with the men’s Challenge Shield at the Ford National Hockey League in Wellington.
Midlands defeated Northland 4-2 in the women’s final thanks to three goals in the first half from Gemma McCaw, Rose Keddell and Samantha Charlton. Northland’s Ella Gunson was awarded Most Valuable Player while Jodie Nichol (Northland) and Rachel McCann (Canterbury) finished joint winners of the Just Hockey top goal scorer trophy having found the back of the net six times during the tournament.
For the men, North Harbour lifted the Challenge Shield thanks to an inspired come from behind win 5-3 over Auckland.
With the score tied 1-1 at halftime, Auckland grabbed the ascendency in the third quarter courtesy of two quick-fire Jared Panchia goals. But down by a goal, North Harbour mounted an incredible comeback and poured on four unanswered goals in the final eight minutes to snatch a famous victory. Defender Cory Bennett was the star of the day with a hat-trick from penalty corner drag flicks while Robbie Capizzi and George Muir also scored. It was North Harbour’s first Ford National Hockey League title since 2009.
Auckland captain Arun Panchia was named Most Valuable Player while Canterbury’s Sam Lane took the Just Hockey top goal scorer trophy with 13 strikes during the tournament.
Aon Secondary Schools
Christ’s College and St Cuthbert’s College were crowned this year’s Aon Secondary School Tournament champions.
Christ’s won the Aon Rankin Cup in a heart-stopping 2-1 shoot-out victory over Christchurch Boys’ High after the score was locked up 0-0 at the end of regular time. Palmerston North Boys School came through to defeat King’s College 2-1 after Thomas Walshe struck in golden goal to seal the bronze medal match.
In the girls’ tournament, St Cutherbert’s College secured the Aon Federation Cup after edging Rangi Ruru Girls School 1-0 thanks to a second half goal from captain Madison Doar. St Margaret’s College edged past Villa Maria College 3-2 when Emily Wium delivered the winner in golden point to decide the bronze medal.
Finishing on a high
November played host to one of the biggest tournaments New Zealand has ever hosted with the Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final at the North Harbour Hockey Stadium.
With the world watching and hopes pinned on the home side, the Vantage Black Sticks did not disappoint after a stunning charge through the knock-out phase to finish runners up after being defeated 3-0 by Netherlands in the gold medal match.
The world number one ranked Dutch were held well by the Kiwis early in the match but gained momentum as time progressed. After a fiercely fought opening quarter, Netherlands stamped their mark with two goals in quick succession to open a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Laurien Leurink delivered another goal for the visitors early in the third quarter and while the Black Sticks continued to fight they weren’t able to find a way past the defence of Netherlands, which did not concede a single goal at the tournament.
During the medal presentations, defender Stacey Michelsen took away top honours with the Best Player award while team-mate Sally Rutherford was named Best Goalkeeper.
It was an impressive way to finish the year for the Vantage Black Sticks Women, who consequently moved up one place in the world rankings to close out 2017 in fourth spot.