From rugby lover to making the Hiha name proud

Despite scoring a crucial goal to help the Central Falcons win the inaugural Premier Hockey League, Sam Hiha wasn’t expecting a call up to the Vantage Black Sticks. He’d loved to have been able to share the news with his grandmother and legend of the game Margaret Hiha who passed away just months before.

What was it like being named in the Vantage Black Sticks for the first time?
I wasn’t expecting it at all. It caught me completely off guard but it was the most incredible feeling.

I was at home with my girlfriend Kelsey when I got the call, and my flatmates were all around to share the news with.

The first people I called were my parents. Mum missed the call and she had to wait an hour to hear the good news. They were stoked, and so happy for me.

You’ve previously been in the New Zealand development squad but what’s the main difference you’ve noticed in the step up to the Vantage Black Sticks?
I suppose it’s the consistent loading. In the past I’m used to a few full-on weeks and then a break away. So day-in day-out you’re thinking about hockey, and I think the fact your body is always under loading is one of the biggest adjustments.

There’s also that personal accountability, about being really disciplined with things like your nutrition. It’s all about having the mindset that there’s a much bigger goal in mind.

You grew up loving rugby and even played through to your first year at high school. When did hockey become your main focus?
I always wanted to be an All Black. I loved rugby and didn’t pick up a hockey stick until intermediate. I made the Hatch Cup and Ross Shield (Hawke’s Bay primary school rugby) teams and actually chose to pursue rugby.

But once I got to high school everyone was 20kg heavier than me so I decided to focus on hockey.

Both my siblings Savanna and Matt and my dad Shane all play hockey, and last year we all played together for Tākitimu at the Māori tournament. But Mum is my no.1 supporter.

Your grandmother Margaret Hiha sadly passed away last year. What influence did the former Black Stick, Hockey NZ Life Member and Hawke’s Bay sporting matriarch have on you?
She had a huge influence on myself and so many others. There’s no doubt she’s one of the main reasons we picked up a hockey stick when we were young. It was a huge loss last year, but there was a really good tribute to her at the Māori tournament.

She contributed so much to hockey, and was a huge part of my hockey career.

People say “oh you’re a Hiha, of course you play hockey.” Once I became more aware of what my family had achieved in hockey, I put that pressure on myself to make them proud.

What do you do when you’re not playing hockey?
It’s good to switch off and get away from hockey. I like to catch up with friends, go golfing and fishing, and when I go home (to Hawke’s Bay) Dad and I go deer hunting.

I’m in my second year working at engineering consultancy WSP – doing stormwater engineering. They’ve been really supportive of my hockey, allowing me to reduce my hours and have time off to train.

You’re not naturally flexible, and have struggled with hamstring issues in the past. How have you overcome this?
I didn’t have any injuries until my second year out of high school when I blew my hamstring in the build up to NHL. It was a bit of a wake up. I’d just recovered from that and then the other hamstring went.

That meant 18 months or so putting a lot of effort into my conditioning. I’ve always been tight  – I’m not the most flexible guy – so my biggest focus is just making sure my body is loose.

  • April 12th, 2021 in
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