Courtesy of Hockey New Zealand
A diverse Vantage Black Sticks Men’s team head to Sydney next week to take part in the Oceania Cup which runs from 11-15 October at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre.
Held every two years, the Oceania Cup is the continental championship for the Oceania region with the winner of each gender automatically qualifying for the Odisha Hockey World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 in India.
New Zealand's Vantage Black Sticks will take on their arch rivals Australia both in the knowledge that they have already qualified for next year's showpiece World Cup thanks to their final standings in the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg South Africa. Papua New Guinea will have different ideas however as they look to defeat both to win the title and qualify for the World Cup as Oceania continental champions.
Should Australia or New Zealand win the Championship, this will open up another qualification opportunity for the highest placed team from the Hockey World League Semi-Finals who have not already qualified, which would be France.
Each nation will play each other in the pool rounds before the top two ranked nations face off in the gold medal match for the Oceania Cup title.
OCEANIA CUP TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE!
Vantage Black Sticks Head Coach Darren Smith named a talented side last month, led by captain Arun Panchia who is the most experienced player in the group having played 227 international tests.
Goalkeeper Devon Manchester and midfielder Marcus Child are the only others to have played over 100 games but they are joined by some exciting young athletes.
Daniel Harris will make his New Zealand debut after impressing during the recent Ford National Hockey League where he scored five goals and helped North Harbour lift the Challenge Shield for the first time since 2009.
Harris will combine for a dangerous striker combination with Canterbury’s Sam Lane who is in hot form having finished top goal scorer at the Ford NHL with 13 goals from six games.
Rio Olympian James Coughlan returns to the side having taken a break earlier in the year and missing the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg.
“We have a number of players who are unavailable for selection due to European club commitments and injury, so this will be a test for this group to step up and make their mark,” Smith said.
“The Oceania Cup will be a tough challenge and we certainly know that Australia in particular pose a huge threat all across the turf.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our guys in action, in particular Daniel Harris who had a great Ford NHL tournament showing skill, work rate and form for the champion side North Harbour.
“There were a number of talented players not only with North Harbour but across the whole Ford NHL competition which was pleasing to see.”
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS MEN – OCEANIA CUP
11-15 October - Sydney, Australia