There can be no doubt that 2011 will be long remembered as a very special year for Hockey New Zealand. In the summer, the Black Sticks women claimed a first ever FIH Champions Trophy medal by taking Bronze in Amstelveen. That was then followed up with a stunning success in Australia, where they claimed the Oceania Cup by defeating their eternal rivals by two games to one. The men have also made huge strides forward, coming amazingly close to making it an Oceania Cup double before eventually losing out to the mighty Kookaburras in the best-of-three series.
However, all of these outstanding achievements could well be eclipsed by a monumental event that will take place in Auckland in December. Following the removal of the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy from India at the start of September, Hockey New Zealand stepped forward to take on the huge challenge of organizing the iconic international event in just three months. It will be the first time that a Champions Trophy tournament has ever been played in the country, providing a unique opportunity for New Zealanders to witness the world’s finest teams and players competing in their own back yard.
With the Owen G Glenn FIH Men’s Champions Trophy now just seven weeks away, we chat with Hockey New Zealand’s Chief Executive Officer Hilary Poole about the build up to the biggest hockey event in their nation’s history.
FIH.ch: Hi Hilary, thank you for talking to us! How are the preparations going for the Champions Trophy? The work must be pretty intense at this point!
Hilary Poole: “With seven weeks to go, it is certainly a busy time for us here at Hockey New Zealand as we prepare for the Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy. We have a dedicated team working on the event and have already recruited approximately 150 volunteers – so there is no shortage of support! There is a strong and loyal hockey community in New Zealand so although it is busy we are all enjoying working on making this event a real success.”
FIH.ch: Both personally and professionally, how excited are you about the fact that eight of the world’s finest men's international teams will be competing in Auckland?
HP: “To have the world’s top eight teams come and play in New Zealand is very exciting, especially as it is the last major event on the men’s calendar prior to the 2012 London Olympics. Although New Zealand has held FIH Olympic and World Cup Qualifying Tournaments in the past, we have never held a Champions Trophy or World Cup, so it is a real honour to have a tournament of this quality right here on our doorstep.”
FIH.ch: The tournament will be called the Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy. Can you tell us more about the title sponsor and the support they have given you?
HP: “Owen Glenn is the Founding Patron of the New Zealand Hockey Foundation and an avid supporter of the game, having himself played for many years and attended many of the major international events over the years. Owen is the owner and executive chairman of OTS Logistics Group - a billion dollar company with offices in 105 countries. Philanthropy is a huge part of Owen’s life, with his Glenn Family Foundation supporting hundreds of humanitarian causes throughout the world. As well as being the naming rights sponsor for this event, Owen has also invested in the Owen G Glenn Future Black Sticks programme, which gives New Zealand’s Under 18 and Under 21 athletes the support, training and international competition they need to become the next generation of Black Sticks. It is fantastic to have Owen as part of this event and I know that he is looking forward to watching the world’s best hockey in Auckland in December!”
FIH.ch: This is the first time that an FIH Champions Trophy has taken place in New Zealand. Can we expect big crowds to turn up to show their support for the Black Sticks and the other top competing nations?
HP: “The New Zealand hockey community is extremely excited to have this event at home, so we are confident that there will be no shortage of support! It is not often that New Zealanders get to see the world’s top nations in action, so we expect that they will support not only the Black Sticks but also the other teams as well. There will be lots going on around the ground, including trade displays, an interactive zone, a family area as well as a ‘fan transformer’ that spectators will walk through on arrival to help them become the ultimate hockey fan!”
FIH.ch: Finally, hosting this event seems a fitting way to round off a sensational year for Hockey New Zealand, the highlight of which saw the Black Sticks women claim the Bronze medal at the Rabo FIH Champions Trophy in Amstelveen. It must be very satisfying to be so heavily involved in a sport which is clearly going from strength to strength in New Zealand.
HP: “Yes, it has been a great year of hockey for New Zealand. Over the last couple of years our participation numbers have increased, our Black Sticks teams have become more competitive against the world’s top six teams and to attract an event like the Champions Trophy is just a huge boost for us and will really help to drive the profile and interest of the sport. For the Black Sticks Men and Women, there is a lot of work to do between now and the 2012 London Olympics, but we are very fortunate to have fantastic coaches leading the teams and are excited about the potential of both teams and are looking forward to the next twelve months.”
Tickets for the Owen G Glenn FIH Men's Champions Trophy will go on sale at the end of the month at www.ticketmaster.co.nz .
To read Hockey New Zealand's guide to the highlights of Auckland, please click here.
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