Black Sticks to play in Rangiora

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Feeling the heat... Rangiora Hockey Club's acting president, Kevin Gainsford, who normally plays in goal, under pressure on the right wing in the heat during a mixed-players exhibition game at the opening of the new Waimakariri Hockey Turf in Rangiora recently. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

Waimakariri’s new hockey turf will host two international tests between the Vantage Black Sticks women and the United States women’s hockey team later this month.

The games will be held on Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26, starting at 3pm on the new water-based turf, with gates opening for the event at 1.30pm for the teams’ warm up.

It is believed to be the first time a New Zealand senior international team of any sport has played in North Canterbury, North Canterbury Sports and Recreation Trust marketing manager Tony Kean said.

“The Vantage Black Sticks are ranked fifth in the world and the US women’s team is ranked sixth so it is going to be a really competitive game,” he said.

“Hockey is a very fast game and people will be able to get right up close to the players to watch. It is going to be hugely exciting.”

The tests are a warm up for the Festival of Hockey in Hawkes Bay on March 31 to April 9.

The four-nation international women’s hockey tournament will include the Vantage Black Sticks and the USA team plus teams from Australia and Japan competing for the Hawkes Bay Cup.

The North Canterbury Sport And Recreation Trust chief executive Michael Sharpe said it was “pretty special” to host a Black Sticks game so soon after the new hockey turf was opened last month.

The two local clubs, the Rangiora Hockey Club and the Hinemoa-Kaiapoi Hockey Club had waited a long time but now had a fantastic facility to use and enjoy, he said.

As a former cricketer, Mr Sharpe said he was “blown away” by the speed of hockey.

“It is such an exciting game to watch and fantastic how close you can get to the players.”

Organisers are hoping for a sellout crowd on both days and have corporate ticket options available for businesses also.

Food and soft drink will be on sale at the venue but alcohol consumption will be restricted to the corporate area. It is hoped that the games will attract people from North Canterbury and further afield.

The games have been scheduled to encourage people to visit Rangiora for the games and to take advantage of the hospitality and accommodation facilities available in the town.