Hager is a proud Kiwi now

Nelson Mail - - COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2018 - IAN AN­DER­SON ON THE GOLD COAST

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.

GETTY IMAGES

Rose Ked­dell’s goal put New Zealand 2-0 up in the fi­nal against Aus­tralia.

GETTY IMAGES

Coach Mark Hager cel­e­brates with the New Zealand women’s hockey side af­ter beat­ing Aus­tralia.

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