Photo: Jo Caird
The Vantage Black Sticks Women will have to hit the ground running just two days after arriving in Europe, as they ramp up preparations for the upcoming World Cup.
They take on the world number one Netherlands in the first match of a Four Nations event in Munich, which also features hosts Germany and world number three Argentina.
The series of matches is hugely important for coach Mark Hager two weeks out from their first game of the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup. “Be nice to have three wins wouldn’t it, to go in confident, but it’ll be tough. Holland has had some really good results, they just beat Japan 8-2 in the final of a Four Nations, and so they’re on fire at the moment”.
The last time the Black Sticks played the Dutch was at the World League Final in Auckland in November, with the Netherlands winning 3-nil to take the title over the kiwis. Hager sees them as the team to beat come the World Cup “No excuses, but we only get there two days before we play them, but I think that’s a great challenge for us to step up. We don’t fear them, but we definitely respect them”.
There are also significant milestones ahead for a handful of players. Should they take the turf against the Netherlands it’ll be the 50th test for midfielder Amy Robinson and the 150th for striker Sam Harrison. Olivia Merry is also in line to hit a major mark during the Four Nations event. Presuming she plays against the Netherlands on Thursday, the second game of the tour against Germany the following day will be the 200th test for the Cantabrian.
The tournament will finish with a game against 3rd ranked Argentina before the teams head to London. The World Cup begins on July 21 with New Zealand’s first game of the tournament against Belgium two days later.
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS WOMEN, FOUR NATIONS, MUNICH (NZ time)
Thursday July 12 2am v Netherlands
Friday July 13 5:30am v Germany
Saturday July 14 9pm v Argentina