Almost three months after unprecedented success at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the Vantage Black Sticks Men’s and Women’s teams are on the hunt for further glory.
While the Black Sticks Women will leave for Europe on Sunday ahead of the Vitality Hockey World Cup in London, the Black Sticks Men are already in Japan as part of the build-up towards their World Cup in India later in the year.
The men’s side will play the first of four matches against 16th ranked Japan in Shiga and Gifu on Sunday, July 8. They’ll also play a one-off test against world number five Germany before moving on to Bangalore for three matches against India.
That series will be a rematch of the Commonwealth Games semi-final, where the Black Sticks prevailed 3-2 over the world’s sixth ranked team.
“We have settled in well after a long trip to Japan on Wednesday”, said coach Darren Smith. “The guys have a demanding schedule with five games over the next 10 days before taking on India on home soil”.
“All three will be difficult opposition with Japan setting up toward Tokyo 2020, Germany being traditional powerhouses and India coming off a superb silver medal in Breda at the recent Champions Trophy. It will be exciting to see how we match up against three different styles in what will be very hot and humid conditions”.
Goalkeeper Dominic Dixon, striker Dylan Thomas and midfielder Kieran O’Connor are in line to make their debuts in the series with Japan, while captain Blair Tarrant returns to the squad after a lengthy injury layoff.
The Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup takes place in Bhubaneswar, India from 28 November – 16 December.
As the men’s team take the turf, the Vantage Black Sticks Women will be winging their way to Munich for three tough matches against The Netherlands, Germany and Argentina.
The four day tournament will allow the team to put the finishing touches on their preparations for the World Cup, which starts on July 21. New Zealand’s first game of the tournament is against Belgium two days later.
The squad, which was announced on Tuesday, features just one change from the team which won the Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, with Auckland youngster Lulu Tuilotolava included for her first major tournament. (see World Cup media pack for further details).
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS MEN v JAPAN, GERMANY, INDIA (NZ time)
Sunday, July 8 7pm v Japan Shiga
Monday July 9 7pm v Japan Shiga
Wednesday July 11 10pm v Japan Shiga
Friday July 13 9pm v Japan Gifu
Saturday July 14 9pm v Germany Gifu
Thursday July 19 10:30pm v India Bangalore
Saturday July 21 10:30pm v India Bangalore
Sunday July 22 10:30pm v India Bangalore
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS WOMEN, FOUR NATIONS, MUNICH (NZ time)
Thursday July 12 2am v Netherlands Munich
Friday July 13 5:30am v Germany Munich
Saturday July 14 9pm v Argentina Munich