After amassing an impressive 176 caps for the Vantage Black Sticks Women, in an eight-year international career that has spanned an Olympic Games, a Commonwealth Games, a Champions Trophy and a World Cup, Black Sticks defender Brooke Neal has decided that the time is right to retire from International Hockey.
The Northland born and bred player made her debut at the 2013 Oceania Cup. From that moment on, Neal would go on to be the rock at the back for the Kiwis. The 2016 / 2017 seasons would have some incredible highlights for the side as Brooke would play an integral part in the team finishing fourth at the Rio Olympic Games.
Brooke was part of the outstanding side of 2018 which earned the New Zealand Women’s hockey team their first Commonwealth Games Gold Medal. The side took down the Australian Hockeyroo’s in clinical fashion with an emphatic 4-1 victory at the Gold Coast event.
Neal was also a key member of the team that won the Oceania Cup in Rockhampton last September, again beating arch-rivals Australia, to win direct qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Not only was Brooke an incredible defensive player, her drag flicking prowess saw her bag 13 goals throughout her career as well.
On coming to such a difficult decision, Brooke reflected “It is one of the toughest decisions I’ve made, but I know that the time is right to step away and I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.
“Representing New Zealand has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and it has been an absolute privilege to wear the black singlet over the past eight years. Looking back over my career, I will always be grateful for the amazing friendships I’ve formed along the way, and for all of the experiences (and challenges) that come with elite sport.
“I’ve been lucky enough to grow my initiative as a mental wellness advocate alongside my hockey career, and I will continue my work with young female athletes as this is a big passion of mine.
“I would not be here without the incredible amount of support I’ve received throughout my journey. To my family, friends, teammates, coaching and management staff, and my sponsors - Thank you for believing in me and having my back.”
In her final performance for the Black Sticks Women Neal played an integral role in helping the Kiwis beat the World Number 2 Argentina 5-3 in front of a packed Ngā Puna Wai crowd in Christchurch, a fitting farewell to one of this generations finest.