7 Dec 2016

Batch couldn't pass up Kookaburras job

12:47 pm on 7 December 2016

The former Black Sticks men's coach Colin Batch says the opportunity to coach the Australian team was one he just couldn't pass up.

New Zealand Hockey and Hockey Australia confirmed on Tuesday that Batch was leaving his role with the Black Sticks to take up the head coach position with the Australian men's team.

Batch said they were forced into making the announcement a day early after the outgoing Wellington Phoenix Football coach Ernie Merrick let the news slip during a media conference about his own resignation.

Former Black Sticks coach, Colin Batch.

Former Black Sticks coach, Colin Batch. Photo: Photosport

Batch played 175 tests for Australia and after his retirement was assistant coach with the Kookaburras, before taking up the Belgium head coach role in 2010.

He joined the Black Sticks men as the head coach in 2012 following the London Olympics when the team failed to make the knockout stage and signed a four year contract extension in October.

He said when he agreed to stay on in New Zealand, he had every intention of doing so.

"I wasn't looking at an opportunity elsewhere and I was very pleased to be here. My wife's got a good job as well and we like living in Auckland," he said.

"But things change and there was an opportunity presented to me a couple of weeks ago.... and I was offered the position last week.

Black Sticks striker James Coughlan in action against Australia

Black Sticks striker James Coughlan in action against Australia Photo: Photosport

"You're just never sure in sport and yeah, I don't feel great about leaving New Zealand -- I've enjoyed my time here and Hockey NZ have looked after me, I've had good support so I'm very happy from that point of view."

He said despite enjoying the Black Sticks job, the Australian men's head coaching role is the one position that trumps it.

"While I haven't thought this over the last couple of years, it was once a dream job for me," Batch said.

"While I wasn't looking to move... it's coaching the team that I played for for 11 years and I'm an Aussie so that was pretty enticing in the end."

Former Black Sticks men's coach Colin Batch with the team shortly after their Rio Olympics quarter-final loss to Germany

Former Black Sticks men's coach Colin Batch with the team shortly after their Rio Olympics quarter-final loss to Germany Photo: Photosport

Batch said despite being knocked out of the Rio Olympics with a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Germany this year, that tournament will stand out as a real highlight in his career.

"We weren't successful at the Olympic Games in Rio, we came very close. We got kicked out in the quarter-final and while it looks [like] a failed campaign, we really did play our best hockey in two very important games.

"We beat Belgium to qualify for the quarter-final position - Belgium ended up winning the silver medal there so we performed under pressure to win the game, and then of course we all but beat Germany in the quarter-final, so we lead for a large part of that game only to be beaten in the last play of the game.

"It was pretty upsetting to lose that game, but I've also got a lot of pride in the way the guys played in those final minutes."

The Black Sticks men also achieved a silver medal finish at the 2014 World League Final, fourth at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and gold at the 2015 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup under Batch's guidance.

He said he feels he's leaving the men's hockey team in a good position.

Hockey New Zealand will begin recruiting for a new head coach shortly and hope to fill the role as soon as possible.