In-form Black Sticks could ‘scare a few teams’ in Paris, veteran Simon Child says

Former Black Sticks captain Simon Child will attend his fourth Olympic Games in Paris – a feat the 36-year-old was not sure he would achieve after battling injury and juggling life outside of sport.

Child’s international career began in 2005 but he took a three-year break in 2020 as he focused on a new business and a young family, a decision which kept him out of the last Olympics.

A serious hip injury while playing in India nearly took Child to the brink of international retirement in early 2017 but he fought back to make sure his last game for New Zealand was not a quarterfinal loss at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Child is now ready for more Olympic memories this time with two young children watching from home.

“After Rio and not taking part at Tokyo I probably didn’t expect to have another shot at the Olympic Games so I’m just really excited to have another opportunity and will soak it all in and really relish it while I’m over there.”

Child said he took a more “considered” approach now than when he was playing in his first Olympics in 2008.

“My parents and my wife have been big supporters so for me being selected and heading to Paris means a helluva lot to those people as well so I’m probably just a bit more aware of people and the family that you’re representing by being there.”

The Black Sticks could “scare a few teams” in Paris, according to Child, and they were chasing a medal – like the gold one the New Zealand men won at the 1976 Olympics.

Members of the 1976 team were at the 2024 team’s selection announcement in Auckland on Tuesday and medal-winning captain Tony Ineson offered advice about not relying on luck.

“He was spot-on with his comment and absolutely you need a lot of luck to progress as far as they did in the 1976 Games and to be honest, in my Olympic experience, we’ve put ourselves into some really strong positions and we just haven’t had that little bit of luck.

“Whether it was the last few minutes of a game that we were involved in or whether it was a potential scoreline of another game that we were possibly relying on, so whilst you can’t rely on luck you need to make your own luck … I think for us if we want to go deep in the tournament we’ll do our utmost to make sure we’re not relying on it but we’ll definitely need a little bit on the way through.”

Otago striker Hugo Inglis will also be heading to his fourth consecutive Olympics, whereas former Australian hockey representative Scott Boyde is one of six Black Sticks off to their first Olympics.

Scott Boyde of Australia competes against Nick Ross of New Zealand. Black Sticks Men vs Australia, Ford Trans-Tasman Trophy test series 2016.

Boyde switched allegiances to New Zealand in 2023 and scored two goals in the game that sealed New Zealand’s qualification for the Games in January.

The striker said the Black Sticks’ Nations Cup win in Poland this month, which ended a nine-year title drought, gave the team confidence.

“The more time we spend as a group the more powerful we get so Poland was really important for that. We hit our straps in a few moments in some games and still didn’t play our best hockey and to still win that was really good for our group.

“It shows that we don’t need to play our best hockey sometimes but we know how to win games and that’s what an Olympics is going to be about. It’s a tournament, you have to win the tournament, you don’t have to win every game,” Boyde said.

Head coach Greg Nicol said the team was peaking at the right time with a lot of work having been done to get Games ready.

“We have worked exceptionally hard to get ourselves to the physical level we need to be at, but we have also worked hard on supporting each other on and off the pitch,” Nicol said.

“One of our themes is kotahitanga – unity – and the notion that we are all climbing this mountain together and are helping each other become the best versions of ourselves.”

Nic Woods of New Zealand Black Sticks

Nic Woods has been named to captain the team and agreed they were in a good space and coming into the Games on form.

“We’ve had some excellent preparation this year and we’re coming into Paris with belief in our abilities as a team,” Woods said.

“We will definitely be the underdogs but we relish the challenge and opportunity to try and do something truly special.”

New Zealand will begin their Olympic campaign against India, on 28 July, before also facing defending champions Belgium, Australia, Argentina, and Ireland in the pool stage.

The team is: Nic Woods (captain), Dom Dixon, Charlie Morrison, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant, Simon Yorston, Sean Findlay, Isaac Houlbrooke, Joe Morrison, Hayden Phillips, Scott Boyde, Simon Child, Sam Lane, Jake Smith, Hugo Inglis, Dane Lett.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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