International challenge for Dio striker
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.