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Paris Games in Lett’s sights

A second Olympic Games remain on the horizon for Black Stick centurion Dane Lett, despite his pulling back on his international commitments.

Lett returned on Sunday from India, where he helped New Zealand to their equal-best performance of seventh at a World Cup.

The 32-year-old also reached a personal milestone, making his 100th international appearance in the opening match, a 3-1 victory over Chile, although he was keen to play down the achievement.

“It was a pretty cool milestone to bring up, but I didn’t really give it too much thought, and I told the team not to make much of a deal out of it because that is the way I’d rather have it, but it’s something I’ll probably think more about in years to come rather than right now,” Lett said.

The Black Sticks followed up the win over Chile with losses to the Netherlands [4-0] and Malaysia [3-2], leaving a crossover game with the home side to qualify for the quarterfinals. After trailing 3-1 in the third quarter, New Zealand scored two late goals to force a shootout, which they won 5-4 in sudden death.

“It was good to win that crossover game because we’ve fallen over in some of those games in the past, so it was good to win a big pressure game. It was our most complete performance, and we sort of ticked all the boxes that we wanted to tick against a good opposition.

“We’d come from behind the whole match and then the whole shootout drama, so it was quite a good character win where we kept fighting and came through with a late charge.”

Lett, however, admitted to having mixed feelings about the team’s overall performance and his own efforts.

“We showed how good we can play, and then in other games or other moments, we let ourselves down by not playing to those standards,” he said.

“We made it to the quarterfinals, which was probably our goal, and then see if we could go any further. You never know if you can upset someone, but we came up against Belgium, and they’re a top top side, and you don’t lose too much sleep over losing to them.

“I think we’d be content with the result, but we would like to be a bit more consistent and play our best hockey.”

On his own form, Lett said he was content after a slow start.

“The first game and a half, I was probably not playing as well as I would like, and then after that, in the second half of the Dutch game, I played more like what I would expect. You would always like to play your best-ever hockey, and I don’t know if I did that, but I was happy enough for most of it anyhow.”

Lett will now take a brief break before preparing for the FIH Pro League in Christchurch in April, featuring games against the US, Australia, and Britain. He will then sit out the mid-year Pro league fixtures with a focus on returning for the Oceania Cup, the team’s first attempt at qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, which would be his second appearance in the sport’s showpiece after Tokyo in 2021.

“It’s the biggest event, so if I get to the end of this year and I think I can do another six months and I’m playing well enough, and if it fits around the family, that’s definitely on the radar.

“I will know that in a few months’ time and see how I’m feeling and how I’m playing. If everything stacks up well, then I will be really keen to have a go at that.”

In the meantime, Lett is keen to spend more time with his young family and help Dalefield in their push for a fifth Wellington premier championship title.

“One of the positives at being home a bit more and not going to all the tournaments in the middle of the year is I can get in the majority of the Dalefield season, so it will be good to sink into that and be a bit more consistent with my presence, and I will take on a bit more of the coaching, which would be good.”

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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