By BIANCA RUSSELL
Hello Guys, I’m Bianca Russell, Goalkeeper for the Black Sticks New Zealand Womens hockey team. I thought you might be interested to hear what the Black Sticks are up to at the Hockey World Cup and give you an insight into what it’s like on tour.
World Cup Eve:
Hello everyone from The Hague, Holland on World Cup Eve!
The Black Sticks have been away from home for a two week build up in Holland and are ready to go for game one tomorrow versus Belgium. Most of the tour so far has been polishing our structures, simulating opposition, scouting and researching our opponents to ensure we have done everything possible to win our upcoming matches. World Cup marks the end of a lengthy build up at home also with players having invested a huge amount of time and energy to this campaign. We prioritized hockey in everything we did to be at our best for this pinnacle event. Over the next two weeks we will see if our efforts will pay off.
Today we had our final training and later attended the opening ceremony at the World Forum conference centre. We had discussed the option of not attending as it could have been a distraction but I’m pleased we opted to go. Sharing the bus there and back with the Spanish men’s team was a little distracting I must admit but the ceremony itself was pretty cool.
There were a few short speeches thanking all the people that made the event happen and wishing all the team’s well, then a short concert where various pieces of music were played to represent each attending county. The New Zealand contingent got Royals by Lorde – quite different when done by an orchestra. We chose an excerpt from another Lorde song as our goal scoring song too – I guess she’s the new Dave Dobbyn. The King of The Netherlands was in attendance and all in all it was a festive opening to set the tone for the tournament with the theme ‘Let’s Celebrate Hockey’.
There’s a definite sense of excitement around the team. Some look more wary of the challenge that lies ahead, others look just excited to be here and can’t wait to play. I suppose everyone is different but the thing we all seem to agree on is that we keen for competition games to begin. The stadium is a soccer stadium which they installed a turf in, plus a second pitch alongside. The main pitch seats 15,000 and echoes so crowd noise will be loud. We haven’t seen the venue fully completed as today we trained at HGC club, not the event Kyocera Stadium. It will be awesome though. The Dutch are a hockey mad nation and always host well.
Well the first game is under our belts with a 3-4 win over Belgium. They had good support in the stands as you would expect with them being so close to Holland. I didn’t get a chance to play but will remain ready for when my opportunity comes along. We have Korea next up which will be a much harder encounter. They are fast and their counter attack is lethal. Their accuracy in front of the cage has opened some big scores on us in the past. If we play to our best ability we will be in for a thriller.
Our rest day between matches has been spent training in the morning and scouting video footage in the afternoon. We did a cold water recovery session in the ocean. The North Sea is always pretty chilly even though the sun is out today – I didn’t mind that so much but the many jellyfish float-bys turned it into an ‘active’ recovery as players took evasive action.
At yesterday’s game we got to see the venue fully finished and operational. It’s awesome, loads of hockey brand stands, a huge food court and street performer entertainment to keep the fans entertained between matches. There are of course fans supporting every country and all dressed in their country’s colours. It’s a real festival atmosphere but also a family event with loads of ‘have a go’ type activities for the kids.
There’s a huge tent which is basically just a dance floor and the signs tell us the last shuttle out of the park is 12am – clearly there’s a party going on – typical Dutch hockey fans!
"Let Op! Dremples!" Says the sign we keep seeing driving around warning of speed bumps on the road. We should have taken better notice as we’ve just lost to Korea in a tight 1-0 game. It’s definitely a bump on our road but certainly not the end of the tournament.
Next up we have the Dutch in the main stadium dubbed ‘house of orange’ which will be packed full of enthusiastic Holland supporters. If there are two teams you absolutely want to play in your hockey career – it’s the Argentina’s Las Leonas in their South American den and the Dutch in Holland. It’s a classic – nothing to lose but everything to gain encounter for us. I can’t wait and as I didn’t play the Korea game I’m really hoping for a crack at the Dutch. Fingers crossed!
We had a nice outing to town the other day and in our free time we generally find a few friends and head off in little groups of like-minded people to shop, do lunch or maybe have a look around somewhere touristy. So when three of us wandered off together we quickly joked it was the over 30’s club and where might we go for a cuppa – and since it was a little chilly out had anyone brought a blanket. It’s great we can have a laugh about it. All still young at heart I can assure you.
Speaking of outings we had dinner out last night at a restaurant further along the beachfront. The sunset was outstanding and a trampoline conveniently placed along the walk home provided some awesome pics.
We also saw an abundance of bunnies along the way in the sand dunes which went something like this “Oh look, a bunny, cute!” followed by “Bang!” from Kayla making out like she’d shot one – now a farm girl I guess she understands the full extent of bunny damage in NZ. So do I, they dig holes for my horse to step in, but still, they’re super cute the little fluffy critters. So our walk to dinner quickly became a mock bunny hunt although the bunnies didn’t seem to notice. We only had one accidental ‘shooting’ which was a cyclist on an adjacent trail mistaken for a fast bunny. This is Holland after all, no story would be complete without a cyclist.