25 Sep 2015

Hager names experienced women's hockey squad

11:38 am on 25 September 2015

The New Zealand women's hockey coach Mark Hager has announced his national squad, which is one of the most experiened ever.

Black Sticks captain Kayla Whitelock

Black Sticks captain Kayla Whitelock Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The inclusion of former captain Kayla Whitelock, world-class defender Emily Naylor and star striker Charlotte Harrison bring a total of 668 international test caps back to the side.

All 24 players named, along with 12 named in the 2015 National Development Squad will be put to the test by the national coaches over the next three months ahead of a 2016 Olympic Squad being named late December.

The Ford National Hockey League held in Whangarei last week was a key national selection event.

"It's probably the most difficult selection process we have had to go through due to the quality of players we had - but we now have 36 players vying for Olympic selection. The level at the National Hockey League was high - the teams were close, and there was some exceptional play," said Hager.

Charlotte Harrison, aged 26, has 183 test caps and since her debut in 2005 has scored 50 international goals - making her one of the top five New Zealand goal scorers of all time.

"She has the capability to score goals, she has great game knowledge, she reads the game well and overall she adds real strength to our forward line," said Hager.

Harrison says she is looking forward to being in the team environment again and working hard to cement a place in the squad leading into Rio.

"It's pretty special to be named after having a couple of years off, it made me miss it - it's great to be back and playing alongside some really good friends," said Harrison.

Harrison was in the Auckland side that last Sunday won the K Cup at the Ford National Hockey League.

"I've still got some work to do on my fitness to get back to that international level, but I really enjoyed playing last week and I think that fitness helped my performance."

The schedule for the next few months will give national selectors a chance to see players in action.

First up, the Black Sticks Women face Argentina in four games in early October before the Oceania Cup in Stratford later that month and then the FIH World League Finals in Argentina in December.

"We have given some new players an opportunity to see how they go against Argentina - one of the best teams in the world - it's a home series so we do have the opportunity to give other players a chance," said Hager.

Eighteen-year old Auckland defender Maddie Dowe and Capital's midfielder Kelsey Smith have been given the call up.

"Both these players are very quick, and have great athleticism. Maddie could add some speed to our defensive line and Kelsey impressed in the midfield and has the ability to score goals. They have the chance to be in Rio, so we will see how they go against Argentina," said Hager.

When not on tour, the majority of players will be based in Auckland and training under the guidance of Mark Hager and assistant coach Sean Dancer.

2015 Black Sticks Women's National Squad

Shirt # Player Name NHL Team Position Age Caps

21 Georgia BARNETT Central Goalkeeper 21 16

13 Sam CHARLTON Midlands Defender/Midfielder 23 140

17 Sophie COCKS Canterbury Striker/Midfielder 21 69

20 Natasha FITZSIMONS Midlands Defender 26 46

22 Gemma FLYNN Midlands Midfielder/Striker 25 211

10 Amelia GIBSON Auckland Goalkeeper 24 39

27 Jordan GRANT Canterbury Midfielder/Striker 24 55

5 Katie GLYNN Auckland Striker 26 134

12 Ella GUNSON Northland Midfielder/Defender 26 121

26 Pippa HAYWARD Canterbury Defender/Midfielder 25 74

Charlotte HARRISON Auckland Striker 26 183

30 Kat HENRY North Harbour Defender 24 21

24 Rose KEDDELL Midland Defender/Midfielder 21 91

15 Julia KING Auckland Midfielder/Striker 22 86

4 Olivia MERRY Canterbury Striker 23 97

31 Stacey MICHELSEN Northland Midfielder/Defender 24 180

2 Emily NAYLOR Central Defender 29 256

9 Brooke NEAL Northland Defender 23 56

18 Kirsten PEARCE North Harbour Striker 24 21

32 Anita PUNT Capital Midfielder 27 209

8 Sally RUTHERFORD Midlands Goalkeeper 34 96

16 Liz THOMPSON Auckland Defender 20 79

6 Petrea WEBSTER North Harbour Striker/Midfielder 27 116

1 Kayla WHITELOCK Central Midfielder/Striker 29 229

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.