The introduction of new defender Scott Falconer and the return of highly experienced midfielder Mitesh Patel are features of the Black Sticks Hockey team to compete in the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament in Malaysia.
Scott Falconer, (Wellington) has been selected to stake his claim as a defender, an area of the team’s makeup that coach Kevin Towns wants to solidify at the tournament from 18025 June, which will also act as the team’s final major preparation for the BDO Hockey World Cup in September.
“We are taking four fullbacks to Malaysia - this is an area we are going to be taking a good look at,” Towns says. “There is definitely a position going at the back,”
“Scott had a really good NHL last year and played well in squad centralisation games recently. Now we want to see what he can do under real pressure.”
The team expects to be put under a great deal of defensive pressure in Kuala Lumpur. The Sultan Azlan Shah tournament will feature seven of the world’s top 10 sides and is one of the world’s elite hockey events.
The second talking point of the side is the return of Mitesh Patel. A 2004 Athens Olympian with 121 caps, Patel brings much needed experience to the Black Sticks midfield, following the recent retirement of Darren Smith who had played more than 200 games in the New Zealand midfield.
Towns said the Wellingtonian would also bring back some “go forward” to the inside forwards, giving the team a continuing option of playing Captain Ryan Archibald in the key centre midfield role.
Patel last played for the Black Sticks about a year ago, during the side’s 2005 European tour. He has been unavailable for selection since due to work commitments in England where he works as an IT Engineer.
Another experienced midfielder, Wayne McIndoe, was unavailable for selection due to work and personal commitments, but remains in the frame for possible selection for the World Cup in September.
The side also includes two further players, in addition to the core squad of 14 who won the 2006 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in China in May.
Towns has included another relative newcomer in the form of Canterbury’s Hugh Copland, who has only played two games for New Zealand. He debuted against Malaysia in March, 2005.
The other additional player is Midlands defender Richard Petherick, who like Falconer, will compete for a position at the back.
Twenty-year-old Petherick has played 13 games for New Zealand, the last of which was during the Oceania Cup series in Fiji last November.
There are two notable omissions to the side. World class international striker Phil Burrows is being rested as a precaution. Burrows nursed a groin strain during the Qualifying tournament in April/May and then suffered a compound fracture of his hand when he was struck during the final game of the tournament.
The second player, Bryce Collins, is also recovering from a groin injury and will travel with the team as a video operator giving him the opportunity to be treated on a daily basis and train under supervision.
The participating teams (world rankings in brackets), are:
Group A – Australia (1), India (6), Korea (7), Malaysia (13)
Group B – Netherlands (2), Pakistan (5), Argentina (8), New Zealand (9)
Black Sticks – Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
Ryan Archibald, Gareth Brooks, Simon Child, Ben Collier, Hugh Copland, Dean Couzins, Scott Falconer, Bevan Hari, Blair Hopping, Shea McAleese, James Nation, Mitesh Patel, Richard Petherick, Kyle Pontifex, Bradley Shaw, Hayden Shaw, Lloyd Stephenson, Paul Woolford
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