Hawke’s Bay’s premier hockey festival kicks off on Friday drawing some of the world’s finest players to the region.
From international matches to top level school games the fourth Vantage Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey is set to impress.
Festival director David Nancarrow said they were expecting 1500 people to flood to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sport’s Park daily, especially on opening weekend when the sun was forecast to shine.
“The great thing about this tournament is that you can sit two metres away from some of the top players while enjoying a friendly atmosphere and international sporting spectacle.”
Due to clashes with other world tournaments the number of international teams competing this year has dropped from eight to four.
Defending champions the Black Sticks are back along with Australia, Japan and America.
Mr Nancarrow said of the four international teams competing not one was a weak link.
“We are really pleased with who we have got playing and people can expect some close and exciting games.”
Due to the reduced number of teams the match schedule had been tweaked with two rounds of round robin matches and then a straight final.
“I think this will be good as spectators will be able to witness the all-important and hyped-up transtasman clash twice.
“In the past the two teams have had some really exciting games so it should be good and usually draws quite a crowd.”
Alongside the international competition premier girls’ high school teams are competing for the Furnware Cup.
Eight schools from across the North Island including three in the top 10 arrive in Hawke’s Bay next week with the first game on Wednesday, April 5.
Defending champions Iona College are being joined by Palmerston North Girls’ High School, Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland, Hamilton Girls’ High School, Woodford House, Napier Girls’ High School, Gisborne Girls’ High School and Havelock North High School.
An affiliates tournament is also being held next week but at Park Island in Napier.
Mr Nancarrow said a lot of people who had never seen hockey before were blown away by the physicality and pace last year so encouraged anyone and everyone to get down to the park.
Games have been scheduled for late afternoon and early evening so those at school or work can come afterwards and enjoy the spectacle.
“It is gearing up to be a good 10 days and ticket sales are going well so far but we have a lot more at the gate and can expect a lot of walk-ins.”
The opening game is on Friday at 4pm between Australia and America and is followed by the Black Sticks and Japan at 6pm.
Tickets are available either online at Ticket Direct or at the Sports Park box office.