A mix of exciting youngsters and experienced campaigners headline the New Zealand hockey squads named today for the Tokyo Olympics.
Sean Findlay, a newcomer with just four caps, and his mentor Shea McAleese, heading to his fourth Olympics with 314 caps, are the main features of the New Zealand men’s hockey squad.
The women’s squad features three outstanding young players Olivia Shannon, Katie Doar and Hope Ralph alongside the experienced duo of captain Stacey Michelsen and vice-captain Samantha Charlton who are both heading to their third Olympic Games.
The squads of 16 feature five women (Ella Gunson, Michelsen, Charlton, Rose Keddell and Olivia Merry) and five men (Steve Edwards, McAleese, Stephen Jenness, Hugo Inglis and Blair Tarrant) with more than 200 caps in black, while Edwards, Inglis, Nick Wilson and Jenness will also be attending their third Olympics.
New Zealand men’s head coach Darren Smith said while it was an experienced team they were taking to Tokyo it was also the first major tournament for a number of players.
“It’s a pretty experienced group but it’s also the first pinnacle event for players like Sam Lane who have previously missed out through injury or Jacob Smith and Nick Ross who have been rewarded for their perseverance. They’ve shown they’re really determined to be there.”
Smith said it was an emotional phone call to the bolter of the squad Findlay, who is the current New Zealand Under-21 Player of the Year.
“Sean is a real go-getter and an incredibly versatile player. Shea has had a big influence over Sean’s career and it was a special moment when they got to play together in the recent series with Australia. Shea was equally as excited when I called him.”
New Zealand women’s head coach Graham Shaw admitted it was one of the toughest teams to select with only four internationals in 15 months.
“With the lack of opportunities we’ve had it was a difficult squad to select. It’s certainly been very unusual circumstances but we’ve got a balanced squad that poses a massive threat on attack alongside a strong defensive unit.”
Shaw was excited by the potential of the young trio of Shannon, Doar and Ralph.
“We have some exciting young talent in our ranks especially Olivia (Shannon), Katie (Doar) and Hope (Ralph) who have stood up in recent years and all have huge futures in the black dress.”
New Zealand women’s captain Michelsen, currently the most capped New Zealand women’s player of all time with 291 matches, said the team was pleased to be finally heading to Tokyo after such a long wait.
"All the players are so thrilled to hear their names selected for Tokyo. It has been a long training period leading to this point, but now, with less than 50 days to go, you can feel the excitement amongst the group."
The Black Sticks squads head to Perth next Friday to play two doubleheaders against Australia on 26 and 27 June.
New Zealand Women’s squad for Tokyo:
Samantha Charlton (vice-captain)
Stacey Michelsen (captain)
Reserves: Georgia Barnett, Kaitlin Cotter, Anna Crowley, Alia Jaques, Tessa Jopp, Tyler Lench, Holly Pearson and Brooke Roberts.
New Zealand Men’s squad for Tokyo:
Hugo Inglis (vice-captain)
Blair Tarrant (captain)
Reserves: David Brydon, Dominic Dixon, George Enersen, Sam Hiha, Oliver MacIntyre, Harry Miskimmin, George Muir, Dominic Newman and Aidan Sarikaya.