The New Zealand women’s hockey team under new coach and three-time Olympian Phil Burrows would hope to make a statement when they compete against the likes of USA and China in the Pro League mini tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington. The world number eight Black Sticks, who had featured in a one-off Test match against Spain at Mount Maunganui late January, are marking their return to the Pro League after giving the 2020-21 edition a miss owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions much like their Trans-Tasman neighbours Australia. Barring the one-off Test match against Spain, New Zealand eves have been out of international action for more than four months since last playing in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where they failed to make a podium finish after being nosed out by India in a shootout in the semifinals.
The Phil Burrows-coached side had finished 5th at the 2022 World Cup, which was some improvement over their 8th place finish at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The Black Sticks women would have to counter the competition from China and USA in Wellington. Interestingly, New Zealand and China were placed in the same pool (Pool B) at the 2022 World Cup and at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics – both sides fought out a 2-2 draw in their last meeting at the World Cup while China surprised the Black Sticks 3-2 in the Tokyo Olympics.
New Zealand eves would be expected to glean full points against USA – the Black Sticks have looked convincing in their dual 3-1 wins over the Americans in the 2020-21 Pro League. Much like New Zealand, world number 16 USA would also be kickstarting their Pro League campaign at Wellington. In fact, USA have not beaten the Black Sticks for six years now – they had last won against New Zealand 3-1 at the 2017 Hockey World League Final Round.
Vastly experienced Olivia Merry would shoulder a lot of responsibility for the Black Sticks in the forwardline alongside young forwards – Olivia Shannon and Hope Ralph as well as Tyler Lench and Rose Tynan. Aniwaka Haumaha would seek to leverage all her experience in the midfield with support from the Doar sisters – Katie and Madison.
Vastly experienced Olivia Merry would shoulder a lot of responsibility for the Black Sticks in the forwardline alongside young forwards – Olivia Shannon and Hope Ralph as well as Tyler Lench and Rose Tynan. Aniwaka Haumaha would seek to leverage all her experience in the midfield with support from the Doar sisters – Katie and Madison. New Zealand deep defence would be spearheaded by skipper Megan Hull alongside Stephanie Dickins, Frances Davies and young fullback Kaitlin Cotter eith Grace O’Hanlon and Brooke Roberts doing goalkeeping duties.
World number 10 China after a pugancious performance in the Pro League mini tournament at Sydney, would determined to maintain the same momentum in Wellington and improve on their 8th place finish in the 2021-22 Pro League. China had last faced USA in the 2021-22 Pro League, where they won the first leg 3-2, but lost the second leg 1-2. For the record, USA had finished 9th at the 2021-22 Pro League and was not part of the 2022 World Cup.
All in all, the National Hockey Stadium, Wellington would anticipate some high-dose of hockey action among the world number 9, 10 and 16 ranked teams.