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Lett and Hull stick to Olympic ambitions

Megan Hull on the ball in the Black Sticks win over Australia in the Olympic qualifying series. PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

Wairarapa duo set sights on Tokyo

HOCKEY

CHRIS COGDALE
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Wairarapa’s Olympic hockey hopefuls Dane Lett and Megan Hull are relishing the prospect of playing in front of family and friends in the first internationals in more than a year for their Black Sticks teams.

The national men’s and women’s sides will play Australia in four matches, which started last night at Massey University, in what are the last game-time opportunities for Lett and Hull to nail down their Olympic spots.

The pair won’t lack support, with the close proximity to Wairarapa ensuring a large contingent of supporters making the trip over the Pahiatua Track.

Hull said the short journey would make a nice change for her supportive Pongaroa farming parents.

“I feel very blessed that they will be making the trip. They normally have to trek around the place to watch me, and this will be the closest one they’ve had so far and it’s very exciting,” she said.

“Hopefully, there will be some Dalefield girls there too. I’m always very privileged to bring up Wairarapa at any point and I’m super proud to be a Wairarapa girl.”

Dane Lett playing for the Black Sticks against Spain in Madrid in 2019.

Lett can also expect plenty of hometown support from his sports’ mad parents Bernie and Karen, and family, as well as his Dalefield teammates.

The 30-year-old defender said he can’t wait to test his form against one of the best teams in the world.

“I haven’t played the type of players that I need to be playing for a while, just playing club hockey for Dalefield, so it’s a bit hard to gauge where you’re at,” he said.

“I’m feeling healthy, and I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing, so we’ll soon find out.”

Although Lett has played Australia several times among his 77 internationals, he has yet to beat our transtasman rivals.

“I’ve been close a few times, and there’s just be one goal in it, but they’ve always been a bit more consistent in the games than us.

“There’s quite a bit of optimism around how we will go. We haven’t been able to get a good measure of where we’re at because we haven’t played games at all, and we haven’t seen them play either.

“We’re not naive and know they’re a big challenge, and I’m sure they’ll be in real good shape and will play good hockey.”

Lett said Australia were the perfect opposition to kick off their Olympic build-up.

“Often, the best way is to learn the hard way, and you’re not going to get away with anything easy, and if you’re a bit off your game you’re going to get punished quickly.

“The be-all-and-end-all isn’t on these matches, the focus will be more on performance and trying to get better each game.”

Unlike Lett, Hull has experienced victory over Australia in the Oceania Cup in October 2019, and the 25-year-old is preparing for another typically feisty transtasman battle.

“The last time we played them was in Rockhampton [Queensland] in the Olympic qualifiers, and we managed to take the series and in that last game it’s probably been the most nervous I’ve ever been in a hockey match, because for the last 15 minutes we just defended for the whole time I think,” she said.

“They’ll be massively up for this, and they’re such a tough team to play – they’re physical, they’re fit, and they’re skilful, so we can expect it to be a classic New Zealand-Aussie rivalry.”

Hull has been in Auckland since the beginning of the year training fulltime. She said these internationals were coming at the right time.

“There will be a few nerves and that in the first game, but once that whistle goes, we’ll get nice and stuck in, and it’s a really good opportunity.

“We’re so lucky to have so much talent in this country with our domestic competitions, but it’s the replication of international matches which is hard to get, so Aussie coming here is such a great result.”

As for her own performance, the 31-capped defender is focusing on her connections within the team structure.

“You’ve got to make sure that’s first and foremost, and then head out there and have fun – that’s a big one – and try to be a bit confident and just play hockey.”

After last night, the teams will backup today, with further games on Sunday and Tuesday.

The 18-strong squads for Tokyo will be named in the week after the series.

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