After 13 years of international hockey Black Stick Blair Hopping has announced his retirement.
The 32-year-old said although he will miss test hockey and the opportunities it brings, he is looking forward to spending less time on the turf and more time with his young family.
“Although I still love playing test matches, I have been struggling to motivate myself at trainings and for me that was a sign it was time to retire,” said Hopping.
“I have to admit it was quite nice coming home after work last night and spending time with my family, rather than rushing to training,” says Hopping who lives in Kumeu with his wife and their nine-month old son.
The defender has had an outstanding career and is one of four players in New Zealand’s history to have played more than 250 games, retiring from the international circuit with 264 caps.
He has attended two Commonwealth Games (Manchester and Melbourne), three World Cups (Malaysia, Germany and India) and three Olympics (Athens, Beijing and London).
Hopping notes that a highlight was collecting a silver medal at the Manchester Commonwealth Games, in particular the semi-final where New Zealand beat Pakistan for the first time ever.
“The score was 7-1 and it was one of those games when everything just went right, it would be the best game I have ever played in.
“It was also amazing to play at Athens – it is the home of the Olympics, plus it was my first Olympic experience so that made it pretty special,” says Hopping.
Hopping says that as the sport becomes more professional, there are increasing opportunities for younger players.
“My message to aspiring players would be to make the most of the opportunities and always enjoy it. It is an awesome thing to represent your country, there is nothing better than pulling on the black shirt.”
Hopping has recently taken on a new role as Installations Manager at TigerTurf, which is New Zealand’s leading manufacturer of synthetic turfs.
“I have worked there since 2006, but this new role is a step up and a new direction. They have been hugely supportive and without them I wouldn’t have been able to go away with the team as much as I have.
“Also the support I have had from my sponsors, TK and Asics, has been invaluable.”
In between work and family, Hopping will follow the team closely and is hoping to get along to watch the side in any upcoming home tests.
“I’m not the greatest at watching games. I won’t be standing on the side line quietly that’s for sure. There will be a bit of yelling advice and encouragement to the boys.”
Source: Hockey NZ website
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