In­ter­na­tional chal­lenge for Dio striker

Central Leader - - Sport - By Scott Mor­gan

Most high school stu­dents are busy hit­ting the books for up­com­ing ex­ams at this time of year.

But Dioce­san School year 13 stu­dent Sa­man­tha Har­ri­son has the weight of a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional hockey tour­na­ment on her mind.

Sa­man­tha, 18, was se­lected for the Black Sticks side in the Cham­pion’s Chal­lenge com­pe­ti­tion in South Africa, which started on Sun­day.

While the Ep­som res­i­dent made her de­but for New Zealand in July, she says this is by far the big­gest chal­lenge of her short ca­reer.

“It’s my first re­ally big tour­na­ment for New Zealand. It hasn’t re­ally sunk in yet.”

The striker says there’s a huge dif­fer- ence be­tween turn­ing out for her Dioce­san School side, which was re­cently crowned na­tional secondary school cham­pi­ons, and the Kiwi team.

“It’s so much quicker than school. They’re on you for a lot more of the game and it’s a lot more in­tense.”

She says the sup­port of more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in the New Zealand side has helped her ad­just.

“You pick up quite a lot. The girls around you are al­ways telling you things.”

Sa­man­tha says fel­low Black Stick and big sis­ter Char­lotte has been a huge in­spi­ra­tion through­out her hockey ca­reer.

“She made the team when she was 16 and I was 14. I was just like, ‘Wow, I re­ally want to do that’.”

New Zealand coach Mark Hager says they’re try­ing not to over­work young play­ers like Sa­man­tha.

“We don’t want to ask too much of her too early.

“We’re a bit wor­ried about too much hockey at such a young age.”

Hager says she could rep­re­sent New Zealand for a very long time.

“Sa­man­tha has some very good in­di­vid­ual skills and is quite quick.

“It’s an­other op­por­tu­nity for her to im­press.”

As for the side’s chances at the tour­na­ment, Hager says a topthree fin­ish is what they’re hop­ing for.

“I be­lieve we’re im­prov­ing with ev­ery op­por­tu­nity we’re given,” he says.

The Black Sticks, cur­rently ranked 11th in the world, take on sides like Spain, Ja­pan and Korea at the Cham­pion’s Chal­lenge.

On the run: Black Sticks hockey player Sa­man­tha Har­ri­son, cen­tre, in action for Dioce­san School for Girls, is in South Africa for the Cham­pion’s Chal­lenge tour­na­ment.

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