The New Zealand men’s team continues their Olympic qualifying build-up with a three test series against the world’s number one ranked team – Australia in Sydney on 21, 23 and 25 November.

The 18 named to play Australia includes one player not involved in the recently completed three test series against Korea – Richard Petherick of Midlands. Petherick gets his opportunity after a solid NHL for Midlands and a strong showing for the NZ selection team in practise games against Korea.

Experienced striker Gareth Brooks has been selected again and has emerged as a real contender to make the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Brooks only recently returned from playing club hockey in the Netherlands and his inclusion in the recent series against Korea was his first for the Black Sticks since the 2006 BDO World Cup in Germany.

Two players are unavailable due to injury. They are Brad Shaw (stress fracture) and Shea McAleese (dislocated shoulder). Harbour midfielder Ben Collier has been selected, however he will be subjected to a fitness test having not played since late September after being injured during the NHL.

Black Sticks Coach Shane McLeod is looking forward to testing his team against the world’s top ranked side.

“It is good to play teams like Australia and Korea during our build-up - sides that will expose any cracks and still give us time to fix them before February,” he said. “Hence that is why we are playing them now.”

McLeod was generally happy with the Black Sticks recent series against fifth ranked Korea. “Apart from one flat patch, we were pretty consistent,” he said.

The series continues an intensive build up to next February’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament being held at North Harbour, 2-10 February.

Preparation for the tournament includes a number of tests against Chile, Japan and China in January, before going into camp at Albany on 25 January.

Black Sticks team to play Australia:

Ryan Archibald (captain), Gareth Brooks, Simon Child, Dean Couzins, Bevan Hari, Paul Woolford, James Nation, Hayden Shaw, Ben Collier, Bryce Collins, Steve Edwards, Blair Hopping, Dave Kosoof, Casey Henwood, Lloyd Stephenson, Richard Petherick, Phil Burrows, Kyle Pontifex.

Source: Hockey New Zealand