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New Zealand hockey teams ready for battle

New Zealand hockey teams ready for battle

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<p>The New Zealand hockey teams are all set to get underway at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games</p>
<p class="">The New Zealand Men’s and Women’s hockey teams are all set to get underway at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, which starts on Thursday.<br>
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The Commonwealth Games will see more than 6,000 athletes and officials representing 71 Commonwealth nations and territories welcomed to the event cities of Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville, all sharing in the celebration of sport, entertainment and culture.<br>
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The Men’s and Women’s hockey competitions will be played at the newly-upgraded Gold Coast Hockey Centre in Labrador, north of Surfer's Paradise.<br>
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As well as featuring some undisputed heavyweights, one of the beauties of the hockey competitions at the Commonwealth Games is the prospect of compelling match-ups between nations that rarely play each other.<br>
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In the first phase of competition, the 10 teams from each gender will be divided into two pools of five nations. With only the top two finishers securing a place in the competition semi-finals, there will be a considerable amount of pressure for the teams to start their campaigns with a victory and get crucial points on the board as early as possible.<br>
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<span class="dnnTertiaryAction" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">WOMEN’S PREVIEW</span><br>
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With three current continental champions the women’s competition will be fiercely contested and difficult to predict.<br>
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In Pool A, England (FIH Hero World Ranking: 2) will be seen as favourites to win the pool but face stern challenges from Asian continental champions India (WR:10) and African champions South Africa (WR:14) as well as Malaysia (WR:22) and Wales (WR:26) – two rapidly progressing nations.<br>
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England will need to be at their best if they are to fulfil their ambition of winning a first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal after finishing runners up at the Kuala Lumpur 1998, Manchester 2002 and Glasgow 2014 events.<br>
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In Manchester England’s defeat came at the hands of India, a team that will fancy their chances of medalling at Gold Coast 2018, especially on the back of their outstanding title success at last year’s Asia Cup, which was played in Kakamigahara, Japan. Star striker Rani remains a talismanic figure for the Eves and could well inspire her team to their first podium finish at a Commonwealth Games since their silver medal at the Melbourne 2006 event.<br>
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Like India, South Africa are also continental champions, having claimed the Africa Cup for Nations last year in Egypt. Dirkie Chamberlain was a key player in that continental championship winning side and will once again again be one to watch. Although Malaysia and Wales sit further down the FIH Hero World Rankings, they both have enough quality to give their higher ranked opponents a serious run for their money at this event.<br>
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Women’s Pool B will be equally competitive, especially with fierce Oceania rivals New Zealand (WR:4) and Australia (WR: 5) in action alongside Scotland (WR:18), Canada (WR:21) and Ghana (WR:30).<br>
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The New Zealand Women are top seeded in the Pool at fourth in the world with hosts Australia one place behind. The Kiwis are spearheaded by the vastly experienced duo of captain Stacey Michelsen and Anita McLaren, who will both be competing at their third successive Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.<br>
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Michelsen, recently named a finalist for World Player of the Year, carries immense talent and experience having amassed 248 test caps for New Zealand while McLaren (252 caps) brings genuine firepower as the women’s all-time leading goal scorer, currently just one shy of her 100th goal. Both players will be hungry to complete their set of Commonwealth Games medals having won silver at Delhi 2010 and bronze at Glasgow 2014.<br>
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While the rankings gap between the Oceania giants and fellow Pool B competitors Scotland, Canada and Ghana is significant, they are certainly not teams to be taken lightly.<br>
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Scotland have some real talent in their ranks such as Great Britain internationals Sarah Robertson, Amy Gibson, Nicola Cochrane and Amy Costello while Canada and Ghana both performed well in their respective continental championships last year. The Canadians were beaten to a place on the podium by USA in the Pan American Cup, while Ghana finished second behind winners South Africa in the Africa Cup for Nations.<br>
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<span class="dnnTertiaryAction" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">MEN’S PREVIEW</span><br>
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In the men’s event, Australia (WR:1) will be seen as favourites to claim a sixth successive title. Not only are they the top ranked team in the game and have the advantage of playing at home, they are also the current holders of the World Cup, Hockey World League, Oceania and Champions Trophy titles.<br>
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Australia will definitely not be given an easy ride in Pool A, with New Zealand (WR:9), Canada (WR:11), South Africa (WR:15) and Scotland (WR:23) all extremely motivated by the prospect of downing the Aussies on their own turf. <br>
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New Zealand, twice podium finishers in previous editions of the Commonwealth Games, will fancy their chances of medalling at this event, led by captain Arun Panchia.<br>
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Shea McAleese is the most experienced player in the team having played 258 tests, in what will serve as his fourth straight Commonwealth Games. The campaign will boost the 33-year-old’s career record at major tournaments to three Olympic Games, four Commonwealth Games and three World Cups.<br>
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Canada, led by experienced defender Scott Tupper are always dangerous and unpredictable while African continental champions South Africa and an improving Scotland team are also in the mix.<br>
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India (WR:6), England (WR:7), Malaysia (WR:12), Pakistan (WR:13) and Wales (WR:24) all feature in Pool B which looks extremely hard to predict.<br>
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As well as the always intriguing clash between rivals India and Pakistan, the latter of which is now coached by former India boss Roelant Oltmans, there is also the chance for Malaysia to gain a measure of revenge against an England team that thrashed them 7-2 in the semi-finals of the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.<br>
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As suggested by their rankings, Asian continental champions India and England, who eventually finished second behind Australia at the Azlan Shah event, should be the front-runners for the two available semi-final berths.<br>
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Both sides are blessed with numerous outstanding individuals, with India captain Manpreet Singh and England attacker Barry Middleton being two of numerous world class individuals contained in their respective ranks.<br>
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In recent months Malaysia have shown that on their day they are capable of beating the very best in the world, a fact proven by their impressive 2-1 victory over Olympic champions Argentina at the Azlan Shah event.<br>
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2006 Commonwealth Games silver medallists Pakistan will be boosted by the arrival of celebrated Dutchman Oltmans and could well challenge, while Wales will grab the opportunity to prove themselves against higher-ranked opponents with both hands.<br>
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The hockey competitions of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games get underway on the opening day of competition with the New Zealand Women going up against Scotland at 1:30pm (NZT) on Thursday 5<sup>th</sup> April before the New Zealand Men tackle Canada at the same time on Friday 6<sup>th</sup> April. <br>
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Both New Zealand’s opening matches will be broadcast live on TVNZ’s Duke channel.<br>
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<a href="https://www.gc2018.com/sport/hockey" style=""><span class="dnnTertiaryAction" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">CLICK HERE for the full Gold Coast Commonwealth Games hockey schedule</span></a><br>
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2018-04-04T07:23:00+10:0016460true

  • April 4th, 2018 in
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