Dane Lett playing for Dalefield against Kapiti on Saturday. PHOTO/JAMES CRAWLEY

HOCKEY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Dalefield will have to do without inspirational player-coach Dane Lett for their last two regular season matches, but they will have him back in time for the play-offs.

Lett was heading to Japan yesterday with the Black Sticks, as part of a 20-strong squad for four matches against Japan and one against Germany.

Eighteen of the playing group will then carry on to India for three tests, in preparation for December’s Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar.

Lett has been in typically solid form for the Farriers Dalefield premier men’s team this season, guiding them to the top of the standings with two matches to play.

Hutt United are only one point behind and have a game in hand, but Dalefield are guaranteed to at least finish in the top two.

Lett is scheduled to return just in time for their first play-off match on July 28.

He has played 23 matches for the Black Sticks and was part of the team that claimed the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in April.

Another feature of the squad is the return of captain Blair Tarrant.

The 28-year-old veteran of 179 tests has recovered from a frustrating back injury which had him unable to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

Tarrant will lead a strong playing group, including goalkeeper Dominic Dixon and striker Dylan Thomas, who are both in line to make their debuts.

Dixon and Thomas will return home to New Zealand after the Japan leg of the trip while the remaining 18 players head to Bangalore, India.

Head coach Darren Smith said the tour was timely for the group, with an opportunity for some fresh faces to get international experience ahead of World Cup selections later in the year.

“To have the ability to spend time in Japan and India against very challenging competition gives us a chance to test our on and off field systems ahead of the World Cup and Olympics,” Smith said.

“It will be great to have Blair Tarrant back on the turf.

“He is a very important cog for our squad both as an outstanding player and the leadership role he undertakes.

“We look forward to seeing him in the Vantage Black Sticks shirt again.

“Dom and Dylan have been impressive during the past 12 months and recently in training so we are excited to see how they perform at the top level.”

– with NZ Hockey