Black Sticks Men’s coach Shane McLeod says that it is Shea McAleese’s rapport with a wide range of players and his natural leadership qualities that have led him to be named captain for the Malaysia Airlines Summer Series.

McAleese, who plays for Central in the National Hockey League and has 125 caps to his name, will lead the team throughout the series, taking over from Phil Burrows who is currently injured and unavailable to play.

“It’s a real privilege to be named captain and I’m really looking forward to the series getting underway. It has always been a goal of mine to captain a New Zealand side and I’m humbled and honoured to have been given this opportunity,” says McAleese who is from Napier and debuted for the Black Sticks in 2005.

With a mix of both young and highly experienced players in the current Black Sticks side, McLeod was looking for a leader who was well respected by all in the team.

“Shea is a very talented and determined player who shows experience beyond his years. The respect that he has from the team, will pay dividends both on and off the turf during the series,” says McLeod.

It is not the first time that McAleese, aged 26, has led a national side. He captained a young Black Sticks development team at the Four Nations in Nottingham last year.

“When you are captaining a side it’s important to provide the younger players with the advice they need, but also make them feel comfortable, ensure that they are enjoying their hockey and performing with consistency,” says McAleese.

McAleese has confidence in the team and believes that the biggest challenge for this series will be playing well in all eight games scheduled between Belgium and Korea.

“Although there is good rivalry with Belgium, our goal is to win this series. We have been training hard and we are good hockey players, but the test will be to demonstrate that on the pitch come game time. Our games against Korea will be testing – they are ranked one spot higher than us, so to beat them we will have to perform exceptionally well,” says McAleese.

McAleese has been playing for the Braxgata Club in Belgium prior to Christmas, along with Phil Burrows, which has allowed them to strengthen their playing combination and learn from each other.

Both players have come back to New Zealand during their mid season and will return to Belgium for their final club games at the end of February.

"My goal while playing in the European league is to develop and improve my own skills so that I can help other players and also those that I coach,” says McAleese.

McAleese is no stranger to coaching hockey. He coaches the Under 18 Braxgata Club team in Belgium, the Hibiscus Coast Premier Reserves at North Harbour and assists the Hawkes Bay Hockey Academy by coaching various representative teams in the build up to key tournaments. In total, about 400-500 coaching hours per year.

The Malaysia Airlines Summer Series will see the Black Sticks Men play three games against Belgium and five games against Korea between the 8-20 February. The Black Sticks Women will play five tests against Korea in Auckland and Whangarei next week, with their first game this Saturday (5 February) at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga.

If you purchase a Malaysia Airlines Summer Series ticket through before the 12 February, you go in the draw to win a return trip for four people from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur courtesy of Malaysia Airlines.