New Zealand Black Sticks men’s Coach Kevin Towns has announced his strongest possible side to meet Australia in November for the Oceania Cup in Suva, Fiji.
The Oceania Cup will be played in Fiji from 14-19 November. The tournament will be played in a Round Robin format, followed by a Final. The winner will gain direct entry to the BDO Hockey World Cup which will be played in Monchengladbach, Germany, in September 2006.
The team reflects consolidation as the national programme emerges out of this year’s selection phase which has involved 30 players since March.
The young players who have developed from the process are Waikato defender Richard Petherick (19), Canterbury, North Harbour midfielder Shaun Barnett (21) and Canterbury defender Shea McAleese (21).
Towns said all three players had performed well over the past six months showing that they have the ability to play at the top level.
“Petherick is a tall, imposing fullback who can generate a great deal of pace on the ball suiting the expanded game the Black Sticks have developed over the last two to four years. He also has the potential to be a world class drag flick exponent,” Towns said.
“McAleese has consolidated his game at right half and is also a candidate for the centre half role in the future. Shea has a great feel for the game in both attack and defence.”
Towns said Barnett had also impressed in a wing half or centre midfield role and had the ability to search out telling passes turning a defensive situation into an attacking one.
“Shaun remained in New Zealand working on his fitness during the European tour and has been rewarded for a very good result in a recent fitness test.”
Towns said he was pleased with the progress the team had made during the development phase of its programme this year.
“We have achieved the goal of increasing the base of international players and preparing them to take up the reigns of those senior players that are looking to retire over a period of time leading up to the World Cup and beyond.
“It has been exciting seeing the competition for places increase as we have progressed through to this point and I am confident that the National Hockey League will also show those players that missed out striving for a place in the team and putting all existing players on notice.”
Towns has named the team well in advance because players are currently working in their regions with their provincial coaches in preparation for the Lion Foundation National Hockey League which starts on 10 September (women) and 17 September (men).
There is a relatively short time between the end of the NHL and the Oceania Cup and Towns said he felt it was important players recognise the role they will be playing and maintain a high standard of preparation from both competitions.
Other noteworthy selections include the return of Dave Kosoof, who like Barnett did not participate in the July European tour, to work on fitness. Towns said Kosoof had made good progress in this area.
The side will benefit from the inclusion of experienced campaigners Wayne McIndoe (midfielder, Auckland) and Dion Gosling (defender, Auckland) who return for the first time since the Malaysian series in March.
Captain Simon Towns also returns to the side. Towns was unable to play during the European tour due to a hand injury but is now in a rehabilitation phase following surgery.
The Black Sticks Men will assemble in Auckland on 5 November for a brief camp before flying out on 8 November.
New Zealand Black Sticks Men
Oceania Cup Match Schedule
Tuesday 15 November: New Zealand v Australia, 16:00
Wednesday 16 November: New Zealand v Fiji, 16:00
Thursday 17 November: Australia v Fiji, 16:00
Saturday 19 November: Final, 15:00
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