The New Zealand Olympic Committee rounded off the Commonwealth Games Team to Glasgow with the naming of the New Zealand men’s hockey team at a press conference today.
Northland’s Shay Neal and Canterbury’s Brad Shaw have received the call up from coach Colin Batch following last month’s FIH World Cup, while Devon Manchester will be the sole goalkeeper in the team of sixteen captained by veteran Dean Couzins.
Ranked third in the Commonwealth, Batch said that the competition at last month’s World Cup and training together in Auckland has meant the team is well prepared and the players are looking forward to getting the Games underway. “We are in good shape, this is an experienced side and the team has been working hard. The aim is to return with a medal and I believe this is achievable if we perform to our best,” said Batch.
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO and Secretary General Kereyn Smith said she was delighted to welcome the players to the team. “They bring our Glasgow team to a total of 233 and bring with them a wealth of Commonwealth Games experience. Dean Couzins and Phil Burrows are both heading for their fourth Commonwealth Games and the team will be aiming to secure hockey’s fifth Commonwealth medal.”
Neal, aged 24, is Batch’s bolter in the team, making an impressive recovery having had a serious hip operation in November. Having been off the turf for a year, Neal is pleased that his dedicated approach to rehabilitation has paid off with Batch saying he is looking forward to having the skilled, fit striker back on the turf. “The operation was done thanks to the Auckland Regional Charity Hospital - I’ve had the best team around me who developed a good programme to help me recover. I’m now just really enjoying hockey again, being back with the boys and Colin [Batch] and being able to play pain free,” said Neal, who has just completed his law degree.
Having been to the World Cup as a reserve, Neal can see how much the team has improved and believes that having had so much competition this year the side is poised to get a great result in Glasgow.
“The team has been together through this year’s World League Final, Champions Challenge, World Cup and now training together in Auckland – so the Commonwealth Games is the last competition of the year and if we can learn from the World Cup and build on that, I think we will do really well,” said Neal.
“To be honest it isn’t until the team is named and people start congratulating you that you realise this event means so much to New Zealanders, it is starting to sink in now and I’m getting pretty excited.” Shaw is the other inclusion since the World Cup and with 150 test caps and two Commonwealth Games already under his belt, Batch says the talented defender has been training extremely hard and offers the side exceptional experience when it comes to major events. “It’s like I’m debuting again. I’ve been training hard, my motivation is still there. I’m enjoying my hockey more now than I probably ever have,” said Shaw who balances his full time teaching role, with training and being a father of two. “The team is definitely a step up from when we were in London. Commonwealth Games offers the same situation where you have to play those big games under pressure and I think we can do well as long as we don’t underestimate the pool games and take each game as it comes,” said Shaw.
The team has one more week of training in Auckland before they have a couple of days rest and recovery prior to departing for Glasgow on the 15 July.
The New Zealand Men are in Pool B and play Canada at 8am on Friday 25 July, Trinidad and Tobago at 8pm on Saturday 26 July, England at 8pm on Wednesday 29 July and Malaysia at 10pm on Thursday 31 July. The semifinals are from 11.15pm on Saturday 2 August with medal matches on Sunday 3 August from 9am. (All times are in NZ time.)
The New Zealand Commonwealth Games team was formally registered with the Glasgow Organising Committee overnight with 233 athletes and 123 support staff.
New Zealand Men’s Hockey Team
2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
They will play warm up games (not official games) against Wales (20 July, 2.15pm) and India (22 July, 4.15pm).
The New Zealand Men’s hockey team have had the following results at previous Commonwealth Games:
2010 Delhi, bronze medal
2006 Melbourne, fifth
2002 Manchester, silver medal
1998 Kuala Lumpur, fourth in Pool A (only the top two teams in each pool went on to play semis and finals)
Hugo Inglis, Steve Edwards, Arun Panchia, Shea McAleese, Andy Hayward, Brad Shaw, Simon Child, Blair Hilton, Blair Tarrant, Nick Haig, Phil Burrows and Dean Couzins were in the team at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Nick Haig is likely to reach 150 caps (currently on 146).
The average age in the team is 27 and the average tests played are 150.
The youngest player in the team is Hugo Inglis, aged 23.
It is the fourth Commonwealth Games for Dean Couzins and Phil Burrows – both competed in Manchester, Melbourne and Delhi.