KIWI Arun Panchia (right)
THE Black Sticks Men’s team has been announced for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup which will be played in Ipoh, Malaysia from 24 May to 3 June. It is the last tournament the Black Sticks will compete in before the Olympic team is named in mid June.
Other teams competing are Britain, Pakistan, Korea, Argentina and India as well as host country Malaysia, who are the only team not to have qualified for this year’s Olympics
“This will be a great quality tournament for us and offers an opportunity to test ourselves against teams we’ll be playing against in London. Korea and India are both in our pool at the Olympics, so we are looking forward to playing them,” says captain Dean Couzins, who will likely reach his 250th test cap during the tournament.
The tournament will be played on the same blue turf as the one at the Olympics. To ensure the Black Sticks have the best preparation in their build up, both the men’s and women’s teams have been training on the blue turf at Westlake Girls High School. Furthermore, all their upcoming test matches in Australia and Europe will be played on blue turfs also.
Four notable inclusions in the team, who were not named in the Owen G Glenn Champions Trophy team last year, are Ben Collier (Central), Nick Haig (Canterbury), Arun Panchia (Auckland) and Richard Petherick (Midlands). Blair Hopping (Midlands) was not considered due to the birth of his baby boy recently and Steve Edwards (North Harbour) is recovering from a groin injury.
The Black Sticks leave for Malaysia next Thursday 17 May, playing practice matches against Great Britain and Malaysia prior to the tournament starting.
The side then returns to Auckland where the Olympic team will be announced the week commencing 11 June. They then go to Cairns for a three test series against Australia from 17-26 June, before leaving for Europe in the first week of July where they will play against Belgium and Holland.