Although he made his international debut in 2007 the tender age of 17, 2010 was the year that prodigious New Zealand international striker Nick Wilson marked himself as one of the brightest talents in the game.
A string of outstanding performances at the Hero Honda FIH World Cup (India), Commonwealth Games (India) and the ABN AMRO FIH Champions Trophy (Germany) earned him a reputation as one of the world’s most feared attackers, with international players from all over the world showed their admiration by electing him as a candidate for the FIH Young Player of the Year.
Despite narrowly missing out on that prize to Germany midfielder Tobias Hauke – a player three years his senior – the sheer number of votes earned by Wilson guaranteed him a place in the FIH All Stars team, recognizing the players who lit up the game in 2010.
2011 has been another great year for Wilson, being a star player in the New Zealand team that recorded a win and a draw over reigning world champions Australia at the recent Oceania Cup.
With the Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy less than three weeks away, Nick Wilson talks to FIH.CH about the event and how it feels to be taking on the world’s finest international teams on home soil.
FIH.CH: Hi Nick, many thanks for talking to us. The Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy is fast approaching. How excited are you about the prospect of playing in the first ever Champions Trophy to take place in New Zealand?
Nick Wilson: “I am very excited about the upcoming Champions Trophy. It will be great for hockey in New Zealand and will be great to be competing against the best teams in the world on home soil.”
FIH.CH: Ahead of the tournament, what is the mood like in the New Zealand camp? Have the preparations been going well?
NW: I am over in Europe at the moment so it’s hard to tell how the trainings have been going without being there. What I can say is the team performed very well in the past Oceania Cup, earning a win and a draw against Australia, the world champions. We have experience and the home turf advantage so you never know what might happen.”
FIH.CH: New Zealand has been given a very tough draw, with The Netherlands, Germany and Korea being your opponents in Pool B. However, the Black Sticks have been in great form recently and the team is clearly capable of beating anyone on its day. How do you rate your team's chances in this tournament?
NW: “Our chances are better than people might think. Our squad certainly has the belief that we can beat any team. We defeated The Netherlands at the last Champions Trophy and have beaten Korea on many occasions over the past few years. Germany have been our toughest assignment traditionally but as I said we are making huge gains against the top six teams. If there was a time to show those teams what we can do, now is that time.”
FIH.CH: With the London 2012 Olympics just nine months away, do you believe that it is crucial for New Zealand to put in a strong performance at the Champions Trophy? Will you be aiming to repeat the success of the women’s team earlier in the year by claiming a medal?
NW: “This is very much the best test for us and will definitely be a good gauge leading into next year. It is played in the same format as the Olympics, and it is likely that every team playing at the Champions Trophy will be there at London 2012. As a group we will be trying to get as much out of each game as possible and we will go out there to win. However, we also know that the Olympics are a long way off and that gains can also be made after the Champions Trophy. However it is important we are able to consistently compete against the top six and this is our chance to continue our progression."
FIH.CH: There are predictions of big crowds in Auckland. How much of a boost will their support be for you and your team-mates?
NW: “Having a lot of supporters at the event will mean a lot to the team … we have a great deal of pride. With friends, family and the New Zealand public watching it will give us extra incentive to do well every time we play.”
FIH.CH: 2010 is considered by many as the year when you emerged as a truly world class player. What was it like to be named by your fellow players as a candidate for the 2010 FIH Young Player of the Year Award, and also feature in the FIH All Stars team?
NW: “2010 was undoubtedly my best year in international hockey. To be nominated for the FIH Young Player of the Year Award was very satisfying and making the All Stars team was a big surprise. It was a great year, but I hope that this year and 2012 will be even better.”
FIH.CH: You are currently playing your club hockey for H.C. Rotterdam in The Netherlands, following in the footsteps of a number of New Zealand stars including Ryan Archibald and Phillip Burrows. Are you enjoying the experience of playing in Europe?
NW: “Yes, Rotterdam loves the Kiwis! It's awesome to be playing in arguably the best club competition in the world for a great club like H.C. Rotterdam. It’s great to be playing top hockey every weekend, testing yourself against the best and also learning from the Dutch style of play as well. Steve Edwards and Simon Child are also here, which is a bonus for our New Zealand combination.”
FIH.CH: Finally, a more light-hearted question. If you were going to recommend one thing that the visiting teams and fans must do whilst in Auckland what would it be?
NW: “Auckland is definitely known for its nice beaches so I would recommend getting down to either Takapuna Beach or Mission Bay, getting wet and then soaking in the sunshine!”
To see a brief video of Nick Wilson in action, click here.
To see Hockey NZ’s profile of Nick Wilson, click here.
The Owen G Glenn FIH Champions Trophy takes place from 3-11 December at North Harbour Hockey Stadium in Albany, Auckland. Eight of the best teams in the world will compete – with 24 games being played over the six days of the competition. The FIH will be bringing you all the news and results from the tournament via our Event website - http://www.fih.ch/en/competitions-147-owen-g-glenn-fih-champions-trophy-champions . For information about purchasing tickets for the event, please visit www.championstrophy.co.nz
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