Blair and Hamish from the New Zealands Men’s Blacksticks team just keeping you all posted as too what we have been up to over the past weeks during our World Cup campaign.
Our trip started three weeks ago with two 12hour long haul flights from New Zealand to Kaula Lumpur then onwards onto Amsterdam where we boarded a coach and drove another 45 onto The Hague to our team hotel. We were all exhausted after almost 30 hours of travel time all together but to try and beat jet jag we were off to Greenfields turf for a light training and run around. This turf is the smaller of the two world cup pitches but for a temporary pitch it was a very impressive sight, overshadowed by the main stadium it still seats a couple of thousand people and it increased the level of excitement as we were now only a week away from our first game of the World Cup.
After the session we had a quick look inside the main stadium and we were all very impressed. This was by far one of the most impressive pitches we have stepped foot on, a converted soccer stadium with seating for up too 15,000 people. The roof of the stadium makes the ground echo with a simple blow of a whistle so we knew the atmosphere in here when its full would be amazing.
The next 6 days were spent scouting our opposition in small groups, training and three practice games against Holland, Belgium and Germany. Three teams who are ranked higher than us and we knew were going to be teams to look out for during the World Cup. These games were closely contested, 1 all verse Holland, a 4-2 loss verse Belgium and 1-0 loss verse Germany. Although they weren’t results we wanted, the games allowed us to work on a few strategies and tweak our game moving forward to the first game of the tournament.
After a entertaining opening ceremony with all the teams in attendance and some unexpected musical skills by our captain Dean Cousins the boys were ready to go and keen as mustard to start off the tournament well verse Korea.
Our first game was against Korea and we knew it was going to be a tough one. In our last 12 meeting against them we have only won once and we were determined to change this. We started off the best way possible, after a set play we managed to score in the first 11 seconds of the game after a classy finish by Steve Edwards, we aren’t sure but some people have said that this was the fastest goal ever scored in a hockey World Cup so it was definitely a nice way to start. The remainder of the game saw us defend very well with Korea looking to get back on the scoreboard after such a swift start by us. Unfortunately they managed to score mid way through the second half however this kicked us into gear and we managed to snag one back thanks to a PC rebound from Phil Burrows and finished off the game 2-1 winners which was a great way to start the tournament.
The second game saw us up against South Africa, a team we haven’t played a lot of hockey against recently so we knew we had to be cautious and prepare well. We definitely did this and after a classy show of drag flicking by Andy Hayward who bagged him a hat trick we finished off comfortable 5-0 winners with the other goals coming from Shea Maclease and Simon Child. So two wins from two games and we started exactly the way we wanted too.
Our next two games were against Argentina and Germany, which we unfortunately lost 3-1 and 5-3 that’s the highs and lows of sport I guess. This left us with the final game of pool play to play against the hosts, Holland.
We knew the atmosphere at the main stand was going to be pretty incredible, after our warm up we where off to the tunnel to walk out for the anthems and this is when the MC really got the crowd going,, in Dutch though so we had no idea what he was saying, but walking out to 15000 screaming fans was definitely something that we will remember for a long time. This game ended up a 1-1 draw a result which unfortunately left us out of the hunt for the semi finals.
This photo is from the Argentina Holland semi final gives you and idea of the crowds we have played in front of.
Now we are in preparation for our last game on the final day of the tournament against Spain playing for 7th. This game like all games here won’t be easy but like all games we are preparing well doing our best to finish the tournament on a positive.
Blair Tarrant and Hamish McGregor