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Ben and Dan South Africa bound

Wairarapa brothers Benedict and Daniel van Woerkom will represent New Zealand in February’s Indoor Hockey World Cup, but it will come at a cost.

The World Cup in Pretoria, South Africa, will be the first for New Zealand in 20 years, but Benedict said that because the fast-paced indoor game hasn’t been on the Hockey NZ radar for the last few years, it’s not part of their high development programme, so there’s no funding, and players must pay their own way.

He estimated the cost at about $8200 for the trip to South Africa alone, plus the cost of attending training camps and buying the uniforms and specialist indoor hockey equipment.

“We love the sport that we play, so we make it work, and the opportunity to represent New Zealand at a World Cup can’t be missed,” Benedict said.

“It is an awesome reward for hard work and continuing to train hard, and an opportunity has arisen, and we have been able to take it with both hands. Representing New Zealand at any level is a privilege, and I am very proud to be representing New Zealand and Wairarapa and Featherston.”

The van Woerkoms won selection after solid performances for a Wellington invitational side that finished third at last month’s National Championships in Taupo and for the national squad in a Trans-Tasman series with Australia.

Benedict said the tests against Australia, who were third at the 2018 World Cup, were a steep learning curve for the squad that was split into two teams. His side was beaten in three of the four games but improved steadily throughout the series. The Aussies dominated the first game 11-3 and the second 7-3 but needed a goal in the last five seconds to draw the third 2-2, and then won the final game 4-2.

The New Zealand team depart for South Africa on January 28, leaving Benedict and Daniel little time to source the funds. The brothers have launched a Givealittle page on Facebook and are organising other fundraisers, including a quiz night at the Featherston RSA on Friday, January 13.

Although basic hockey skills apply to the indoor game, there are considerable differences from the outdoor version. There are sideboards, so there are no outs on the sides, and the ball can be deflected or played off the boards, and the ball must stay on the floor and can’t be lifted even if trapped. The sticks are lighter and thinner, so players can move the ball quickly, and the ball is slightly smaller with no dimples.

There are five field players, a goalkeeper, and another six on the bench, with a heavy rotation of substitutions in the high-energy game, played over for 12-minute quarters. Games tend to be high scoring, with the winning team often scoring six or seven goals.

Some of the leading countries are not usually associated with outdoor hockey and specialise in the indoor game, including reigning world and European champions Austria, who New Zealand will play in their opening match in Pretoria. They will also meet the Netherlands, Belgium, Kazakhstan, and Namibia in pool play.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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