Dane Lett attacking for Dalefield in the premier 1 final against Hutt United. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

HOCKEY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Four Wairarapa hockey players have had their form rewarded with selection in the Capital men’s squad to contest next month’s National Hockey League in Wellington.

Black Stick Dane Lett will be joined by fellow Dalefield teammates Nick Finlayson and Rowan Yeo in the 18-strong squad, while Benedict van Woerkom is also included as a Region of Origin player.

Capital begin their NHL campaign against Central on September 9, followed by other pool matches against North Harbour, Midlands, Canterbury, Auckland and Southern.

The semifinals and final will be held on the weekend of September 22 and 23.

Lett will be playing at the tournament for the 11th time, and said there were some new faces in this year’s squad.

“The core is reasonably similar, but there’s been maybe a 50 per cent turnover.

“We’ve probably got eight or nine from last year, and a few new guys, but some of those new players have played before.”

Lett is one of five Black Sticks in the squad, as the side will also feature Blair Hilton, Daniel Harris, Harry Miskimmin and Brad Read.

Two ‘international guest players’ – Australia’s Douglas Buckley and the Netherland’s Sijbrand Bolhuis – are also in the team.

As is usually the case, preparation has been a real issue for the Capital squad, with players coming from far and wide to join the team.

“It’s a bit of a nightmare in terms of preparation – we’ve got about six guys that are based in Auckland, another in Australia, one in Nelson and two international guys,” Lett said.

“Our preparation is essentially non-existent – we do train but it is generic stuff and you can’t really practise everything until everyone is there.”

It is a problem that faces most teams that represent regions south of Auckland, and hands a distinct advantage to the teams in the north.

With most of the Black Sticks based in Auckland, those sides can get together and put in a proper training camp.

“We’ll turn up to tournament having maybe one practice game, or maybe none, and most of them would have had four or five,” Lett said.

“You just have to deal with what you’ve got.”

Lett said it was great to have Dalefield well represented within the squad.

Yeo was the top goal-scorer in the premier 1 grade this year, and Finlayson has been a vital cog in the team’s success in recent years.

Dalefield missed van Woerkom’s impact this season, and will be glad to see him back in Capital colours.

“Those guys have had good seasons and it’s good to see them rewarded with selection,” Lett said.

“It’s good to see the Dalefield club represented well.”

Capital finished third at last year’s NHL, and Lett said gelling quickly as a team and starting well would be keys to improving on that performance.

Some players will also see it as a final chance to push for national selection, with the men’s Hockey World Cup coming up in India in November.

“After NHL there is a series against Canada, somewhere in New Zealand in October,” Lett said.

“They name the World Cup team pretty quickly after that, and then the team leaves mid-November to go to Malaysia for preparation, and then on to India for the World Cup.”