Photo: Simon Watts
Liz Thompson fights for possession against Australian Hockeyroo Stephanie Kershaw.
Vantage Black Sticks Women's captain Stacey Michelsen says her team has no fear ahead of its must win game with Trans-Tasman rivals Australia.
“I don't think we have fear, we respect the opposition but I think for us it's just about focusing on the way we want to play, hopefully we can play the way we played at the Commonwealth Games”.
New Zealand beat the Hockeyroos in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games final in April to take out the gold medal.
It’s a result which rankles across the ditch. The 4 - 1 scoreline still very much in the mind of Australian captain Emily Smith.
“They obviously got the better of us at our home Comm Games. That was disappointing and a bit of heartbreak to swallow.”
“We need to get them one back.”
Fighting talk from the Aussies indeed, not enough however to unsettle the Kiwi's.
Vantage Black Sticks Women's Coach Mark Hager refusing to be drawn into a war of words.
“We don’t go near it, it's not in our culture or nature to get into banter with them, we just concentrate on our game and make sure we do our job well and let the result take care of itself.”
Games against Australia always carry special significance for Kiwi's coach Hager. An Aussie native who was capped 231 times by the Kookaburras, he gives off no hint of irritation when asked the obvious question about this fixture. His response is always unequivocal.
“No no this is my team we've been here ten years now and over the ten years we've coached against Australia so it's business as usual and making sure that we prepare the staff and player's well as we get ready for the game, this is a team i’m really proud of and happy to be a part of.”
And the mood in the Vantage Black Sticks Women's camp is buoyant despite a 2-1 defeat to Japan in the last pool match. A game Stacey Michelsen says the team is keen to move on from: “I think everyone's excited for the next game, it's been good to have a couple of days off to refresh after the Japan game and we’re looking forward to another challenge.”
Michelsen says the team and coaching staff have been working hard on areas they struggled in against the Cherry Blossoms.
“One of our biggest focuses has been tightening up on our defence, we’ve let in a few more goals in the first couple of games than we would have liked to.”
“She added: “We’ve also been focusing on just being more clinical in the attacking circle where our team create a lot of opportunities. If we can be a little more clinical and put goals away I think we’ll do well.”
You can watch the Vantage Black Sticks women take on the Australian Hockeyroos on Sky Sports at 7am on Sunday 29th July.