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Black Sticks come up against former coach

Black Sticks defender Sam Charlton. - Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2019 / Alisha Lovrich

The women's Black Sticks side come face to face with their old coach Mark Hager for the first time tonight when they face Great Britain in their Pro League match-up in Christchurch.

Hager resigned last month to take up his new position with Great Britain and England at the same time an independent review into the environment within the national women's team was delivered to the Hockey NZ board.

The Australian had been at the helm for 10 years, leading the Black Sticks through their most successful period.

However, a review into the team's culture was launched when Hager accidentally sent an email to the entire team naming and shaming individual players for their performance and fitness following their exit from the World Cup in July.

Now, the Black Sticks will face their old coach tonight as New Zealand try to get their Pro League campaign back on track following successive 1-0 losses to the Netherlands and Belgium.

Black Sticks defender Sam Charlton said she expects Hager will have already made an impact on the Great British side in the short time he's been with them.

"I think he'll definitely bring something to their group that's a little bit different.

"Defence has been their strong point for a very long time so I think that'll remain the same, but Mark's obviously someone who loves to play a really attacking style of hockey and I think he'll start to bring that to those girls and I think it'll be pretty positive for them as a team."

Tonight's match will be Great Britain's first in the Pro League series, but Charlton expects their opponents to come out firing.

Charlton added that the Black Sticks need to start finding the back of the net if they're to compete with the second-ranked side in the world.

"Our execution in the attacking circle has let us down [so far this series], I don't think it's that we're not creating a lot, we're actually creating some really good chances for ourselves, it's just our final skill execution, decision making, final touches are letting us down a bit."

"That's something we've been working really hard on over this last week is putting ourselves into high pressure situations and ensuring that we can make the right decision when we get the ball and then on top of that execute the skill well whether it's a pass or a shot or a deflection."

While New Zealand has struggled in their opening two matches, Great Britain captain Hollie Pearce-Webb said the Black Sticks pose a serious threat to their tournament opener.

"New Zealand are quick and like to counter fast whenever possible.

"They have already played two Pro League games and so are now well up to speed with international games again. We will need to match this in our very first pro-league game. New Zealand are always tough opponents and we will need to bring our A game on Friday to get a result."

Tonight's match takes place at the Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium in Christchurch - the first time international hockey has been played in the Garden City since the February 2011 earthquake.

The game starts at 7pm - it's preceded by the New Zealand men's match against Great Britain at the same venue at 5pm.


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