Blacksticks women face Olympic reality
Sat, 16 Jun 2012 2:15a.m.
The New Zealand women's hockey team will head into the Olympics realistic about their chances of progressing from the "pool of death" for a shot at a medal.
Coach Mark Hager says the 16-strong squad named on Friday for London are aware of the challenge in front of them despite the Black Sticks' third placing at last year's Champions Trophy.
"We're under no illusions about how tough it will be to win a medal," he says.
"They're calling our pool the 'pool of death'. The girls know they will have to play consistently well to win a medal."
Hager said the selectors faced a number of difficult decisions, including who would be the solitary goalkeeper chosen.
North Harbour's Bianca Russell won that contest over Midlands' Sally Rutherford, who will go to London as one of two players outside the squad who can be called in as injury replacement.
While only four in the squad have previous Olympic experience, six have more than 100 caps and another, 2011 international young player of the year Stacey Michelsen, is on 99.
For skipper Kayla Sharland and Central teammate Emily Naylor, it will be their third Olympics, with Naylor a chance to reach 200 Test appearances in London.
Aucklander Krystal Forgesson and Midlands' Gemma Flynn are the two other previous Olympians.
Hager described the squad as versatile, quick and having a high work ethic.
"They're also probably the most united group of players I've worked with," he says.
"What's best for the team always comes well above any personal goals."
In London, the 12 teams will be split into two pools of six, with the top two from each pool playing off for the medals.
The Black Sticks, the world No.6, are the third seeds in their group behind world champions and world No.2 Argentina and world No.3 Germany.
Their other opponents are Australia, the United States and South Africa.
New Zealand Olympic women's hockey squad: Kayla Sharland (capt, Central), Emily Naylor (Central), Krystal Forgesson (Auckland), Katie Glynn (Auckland), Alana Millington (Northland), Ella Gunson (Northland), Sam Charlton (Midlands), Clarissa Eshuis (Midlands), Sam Harrison (Auckland), Cathryn Finlayson (Midlands), Gemma Flynn (Midlands), Charlotte Harrison (Northland), Melody Cooper (Central), Bianca Russell (North Harbour), Stacey Michelsen (Northland), Anita Punt (Capital).
Reserves: Sally Rutherford (Midlands), Julia King (Auckland).
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