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Anita McLaren (nee Punt) brings curtain down on stellar international hockey career

Published on Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Anita McLaren (nee Punt) brings curtain down on stellar international hockey career

Vantage Black Sticks star midfielder Anita McLaren called time on her international hockey career last week, announcing her retirement in an interview on Newshub.

New Zealand’s top international women’s goal scorer with 105 goals from 271 matches, said it was time to see what else was out there for her and was looking forward to her future.

“As I officially announce my retirement from international hockey, I would like to take a moment to thank my family, my sponsors, Hockey New Zealand and all the fans for the support over the past decade. I feel this is a good time for me to step away from the international game knowing that the team has a very important few years ahead of them. I am confident that those involved and those coming through will continue the success of the NZ Black Sticks Women’s team that I have been proud to be a part of.

“I have had so many great experiences that I will cherish and am always grateful to everyone who has influenced my career along the way. I can honestly say that I am happy with what I have been able to achieve alongside my team mates. Thank You!”

Having debuted in June 2009, post the disappointment of the 2008 Beijing Olympics where New Zealand finished last, McLaren rose to be one of the country’s most successful players. She has helped lead a steady climb in the team’s international standings, once sitting as high as number three on the FIH world rankings.

A two-time Olympian (2012, 2016) and three-time Commonwealth Games (2010, 2014, 2018) representative, McLaren has experienced some impressive highs through her career. To finally win gold on the Gold Coast in April, after a silver in Delhi (2010) and bronze in Glasgow (2014), were just some of the highlights for her, as well as netting several of her trademark drag flick finishes to break the 100 mark for goals.

"To finally get on that podium, hear that anthem and be given a gold medal, if you saw any of the interviews I was a blubbering mess. I'm not very emotional and it all sort of came out.” she told Newshub.

Vantage Blacks Sticks coach Mark Hager was glowing in his praise for the player who has played her whole international career under his guidance.

“For any hockey player on the international stage, Anita is a player you want to emulate, her speed and ability to break lines will be very much missed by our Black Sticks women’s team. Anita is a player with character and is capable of terrorising opposition teams which I have seen many times over the last 10 years.

“Anita retires from hockey as one of the best players of her generation. From a scoring midfielder to a dictator of the game, a specialist drag flicker who was feared by many international teams.

“We are going to miss Anita, a player that gave everything on and off the field, with a tremendous work ethic, something that inspired many players wanting to be like her.

“I wish Anita all the very best and can’t thank her enough for the contribution she has made to the Black Sticks Whānau, you leave a legacy behind for future Black Sticks to aspire too. 

Hockey New Zealand CEO, Ian Francis, wished her well as she stood down from international hockey.

“Anita has been an incredible asset to both the Vantage Black Sticks women and New Zealand hockey over the last decade. She has always played the game with passion and determination, and with a sense of fun.

As a leader on and off the turf, few have worn the black singlet with as much pride as Anita. I dare say there will be a fair few defences in world hockey breathing a sigh of relief to see her step away from the game.

“We wish her all the very best for the future and thank her for her contribution to hockey in New Zealand,” said Francis.

Now as the curtain falls on a stunning playing career for the diminutive midfield dynamo, she now focuses on her career away from the turf, that Black Sticks fans have no doubt will be as successful as her time on it.

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