Having secured their place at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, the 2020 international hockey season is looking to be an exciting and busy year for the Vantage Black Sticks Women, as the national squad is announced today.
National Women’s Coach Graham Shaw has been able to name several highly experienced former players returning to the 2020 squad which sees the return of Kayla Whitelock, Gemma McCaw, Julia King and Rachel McCann. Whitelock and McCaw will feature in the squad for the first time since the 2016 Rio Games.
There is also a mixture of youth with Kaitlin Cotter (17) and Holly Pearson (21) included having been rewarded with national contracts on the back of some impressive form in the 2019 season, where they will join Central teammate Olivia Shannon (18) who has been selected for her second National Squad.
The three young Central strikers formed a formidable combination at the recently concluded Ford NHL, Shaw will be looking for them to build on this chemistry in the strike line for the national team.
The side will again be led by Stacey Michelsen who in the 2019 season became the most capped Vantage Black Sticks Women’s player of all time when she overtook the record of 274 caps held by Emily Gaddum.
Michelsen, who has previously been to the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, will be aiming to lead her side to the first medal in the programme’s history at the upcoming Games.
There are six players with more than 200 test caps in the side and this experience will be vital as they prepare to improve on their sixth placing at the inaugural FIH Hockey Pro League in 2019.
Graham Shaw commented on naming his first national squad, “We feel the squad has a good mix of youth and experience as we start building towards the 2020 Tokyo games”.
“We have been lucky to welcome back Kayla and Gemma after they stepped away to start families. We look forward to the invaluable experience that they will bring and the pivotal role they will play in helping our team towards our goal of medalling at the Olympic Games”.
Shaw stated on the benefit of the 2019 Season “The FIH Hockey Pro League and Oceania Cup have allowed us to test ourselves against the best opposition from around the world. Having booked our place at the Tokyo Olympics we have been able to plan for the year ahead, which will allow us to have the best shot possible to perform at the Olympic Games in 2020”.
The team will begin their international season on Saturday 1st of February when they host the Belgium Women in the FIH Hockey Pro League at the new National Hockey Centre in North Harbour.