Hager is a proud Kiwi now
Mark Hager – proud Kiwi.
The Black Sticks coach played 231 hockey matches for Australia as a star striker, representing his country at two Olympic Games.
But after coaching the New Zealand women’s team for the past 10 years, the 53-year-old beamed and sang God Defend New Zealand as he watched his charges atop the podiums.
‘‘I’m very very proud,’’ Hager said. ‘‘I see myself as a New Zealander.
‘‘I’ve been there 10 years, my family is there, my grandkids are there – that’s probably our life now, in New Zealand.’’
He’d just witnessed New Zealand outplay the hosts at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre in a 4-1 win that eased some painful memories of previous near-misses. ‘‘It’s the monkey off the back. ‘‘This is a team that I really love and I love being a part of,’’ Hager said.
‘‘They gave me a chance 10 years ago to coach a national team. I’m so proud.
Meanwhile, Black Sticks captain Arun Panchia was disappointed but not dismayed, to lose 2-0 to Australia in the men’s gold medal match.
Panchia said making just their first Commonwealth Games final since 2002 – when they also lost to Australia – was satisfying enough, especially after they failed to medal at Glasgow in 2014.
‘‘It’s a bit of mixed emotions. A little bit of disappointment that we couldn’t get the win but to come away with silver is a pretty good feeling,’’ Panchia said.
‘‘We haven’t quite been able to get over the line.
‘‘It’s just pleasing for the girls that we’ve finally done that.’’
After a dramatic semifinal shootout win over England, the margin of victory in the final surprised most.
‘‘I thought we started really well, we moved the ball around really well, we created some opportunities early.
‘‘[Goalkeeper] Rachael Lynch I thought kept Aussie in the game early on and had an outstanding game,’’ Hager said.
‘‘We spoke about relaxing inside the circle – particularly Shiloh [Gloyn] - I felt she rushed the first couple of shots - and then she went out there and got us 1-0 up, which was brilliant.
‘‘Then I think the girls felt ‘yep, we’re confident, we can do this.’’
Gloyn had NZ one-up at halftime before Rose Keddell and Olivia Merry netted from penalty corners in the third quarter. Aust- ralia raised a few nerves when they reduced the deficit in the final quarter but Anita McLaren ended the issue.
Hager rightly had praise for captain Stacey Michelsen, who looked a different class in the final.
‘‘I thought Stacey was brilliant for the whole tournament, I thought Sam Charlton was very good until she got injured.
‘‘I thought defensively throughout the whole tournament we were very very good. We only conceded two goals throughout the tournament and finally we put some chances away today after struggling through the last two games.’’
That still didn’t leave Hager viewing in comfort though – he couldn’t watch the semifinal shootout.
‘‘Oh I still turned my back, don’t you worry,’’ he said of the latter stages.
‘‘The last three or four minutes I was a bit agitated.’’
Even after the final hooter had well faded, he couldn’t relax – ceaselessly fiddling with the straps on his backpack – but he was at least a contented, grinning Kiwi.
His legs folded, he buckled to the ground, and his attempts to get up using railings failed, as spectators on the path were powerless to help him, lest he be disqualified.
With still no rival in sight, Hawkins crumbled to the road, writhing. He pushed away initial attempts by medics to help him.
Australian Michael Shelley overtook Hawkins while he was receiving attention on the side of the road.
Hawkins, who was fourth in the 2017 world championships, had led Shelley by 2min 3sec lead at the 40km checkpoint.
Shelley overtook him to claim another gold medal for Australia, crossing the line in 2hr 16min 46sec.
Hawkins had looked set for gold, until he began weaving across the road.
After going down once, he continued for about another 200 metres before another fall, this time seeming to hit his head on a railing.
It took several minutes for medical staff to attend to Hawkins, even though it was clear he could not continue.
BBC Sport commentator middle-distance running great Steve Cram said it was ‘‘a disgrace’’ that it took so long.
‘‘I’m sorry if you’re watching this at home, it’s really distressing. He’s going to hurt himself and there’s nobody anywhere near,’’ he said.
‘‘Where on earth is the help? You cannot just wait at the finish line. They’ve got radios. And finally somebody arrives. I think it’s disgraceful.’’
There were also heat problems at the women’s marathon, with exhausted bronze medallist Jess Trengrove of Australia put in a wheelchair at the finish.
Gold went to Helalia Johannes from Namibia in 2hr 32min 40secs.
Rose Keddell’s goal put New Zealand 2-0 up in the final against Australia.
Coach Mark Hager celebrates with the New Zealand women’s hockey side after beating Australia.