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The New Zealand men’s hockey team will take plenty of experience as well as some youthful talent into the Rio Olympic Games in August.
The team of 16 players named by the New Zealand Olympic Committee today includes four players who will be playing at their third Olympic Games and a further four confirmed for their second campaign.
Captain Simon Child (260 test caps), Ryan Archibald (313), Shea McAleese (225) and Bradley Shaw (179) will suit up for the third time while Hugo Inglis (176), Nick Wilson (156), Blair Hilton (153) and Stephen Jenness (150) were all members of the New Zealand men's team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
An exciting addition to the team is 18-year-old Central Mavericks midfielder Hayden Phillips who has earned Olympic selection having made his debut against Korea in Auckland earlier this year.
Phillips, from Levin, is an impressive young talent who has progressed from the New Zealand Youth Olympic Team which competed at the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. With his slick elimination skills he will be looking to cause trouble for anyone marking him in Rio.
Midlands 20-year-old Nic Woods (47 tests) also lines up as a defender, having developed into one of the country’s most lethal exponents of the drag flick as well as offering sharp athleticism and quick hands on the ball.
Goalkeeper Devon Manchester will be under the bar in Rio and looking to use his speed, agility and awareness to keep the ball out of New Zealand’s goal.
Head coach Colin Batch said the naming of the team now allows the group time to work together and focus solely on hitting the turf in Rio.
“We have named our team early which gives us extra time to prepare and train together as a unit. I believe we are in a good position to accelerate our development, both individually and also as a team,” Batch said.
“Our team is well balanced with eight new Olympians and eight having experienced Olympic competition before, although Rio does offer many more challenges than what athletes experienced at London 2012.
“It is not just about coping with the environment, but all teams face tough competition in both men’s pools. Hockey has developed into a global sport and the depth and consistency of the competition means there is no easy path to securing a quarter finals spot. However, I’m confident that we can perform well and be a strong contender at the business end of the tournament.”
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith noted the opportunity that lies in front of both the men's and women's hockey teams in Rio and wished them well in the final stages of preparation for the Games.
"Rio is set to come alive in August as a vibrant and exciting city and with the newly renovated Olympic Hockey Centre forming a key part of the Deodoro cluster of venues, we're looking forward to cheering on the team at this world-class facility.
"With the men's hockey team named today, the players are one of the first team-sports to be formally welcomed into the New Zealand Olympic team and the players can now knuckle down over the next two months in the lead up to the Games.
"One thing we can be sure of is that the competition well and truly shifts up a gear at the Olympic Games, I know the team will be looking forward to laying it all on the line in Rio and New Zealanders in turn are looking forward to tuning into the hockey teams' progress at the Games."
The New Zealand Men are in action on the opening day of competition against trans-Tasman rivals Australia at 4:30am on Sunday 7th August (NZ time) before the Women open their campaign against Korea at 1:00am the following Monday morning.
Two pitches will host both events and for the first time in an Olympic hockey competition, quarter-finals will be played with the top four teams from each pool qualifying for the knock-out stages.
The winners of the quarter-finals will qualify for the semi-finals which will determine who will play in the gold and bronze medal matches. These final two men's matches are scheduled for Thursday 18th August.
The New Zealand Women’s team will be named in early July following the conclusion of the Champions Trophy in London.
New Zealand hockey teams have won several Commonwealth Games medals dating back to Kuala Lumpur 1998 right through to Glasgow 2014. The Olympic hockey highlight for New Zealand came at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 when the men's hockey team triumphed over Australia to claim the Gold medal.