Switch­ing to hockey a good move

Havelock North Village Press - - News - BY ANEN­DRA SINGH

Sasha Nor­ris didn’t hes­i­tate to em­bark on a field-hockey jour­ney, despite the rel­a­tive com­fort of safety foot­ball had of­fered her as a young­ster.

Af­ter all, the con­cept of the beau­ti­ful game was iden­ti­cal — that is, put the ball into the net — but the thrill of pick­ing up a stick and run­ning with it en­ticed Nor­ris.

“That’s kind of a part of why I play [be­cause] there’s a risk [in what is] just a speedy and ex­cit­ing game that is un­pre­dictable,” says the Wood­ford House Year 12 pupil who will rep­re­sent the Hawke’s Bay un­der-18 girls’ team against their Aus­tralian state vis­it­ing coun­ter­parts in the an­nual two­day Queens­land Chal­lenge at the Park Is­land turf in Napier. They play at 5pm to­mor­row and 6.45pm on Thurs­day.

The Bay boys play their Queens­land coun­ter­parts at 6.45pm to­mor­row and 5pm on Thurs­day.

Nor­ris, part of the team which won both matches last year, says hockey came with a mod­icum of “nat­u­ral tal­ent” but quite a bit of reg­i­mented train­ing was re­quired.

As a Year 5 pupil at Te Mata Pri­mary School she first picked up a stick dur­ing PE class to per­form some ba­sic skills.

“At the time I was play­ing foot­ball so I de­cided to pick up hockey and found it was my sport,” she said. The for­mer Have­lock North In­ter­me­di­ate pupil says no­body in her fam­ily is into hockey, although her cousins are also striv­ing to carve a niche on the turf.

“It was kind of a whole new thing for my par­ents,” says the 17 year old of Ni­cole and An­drew Nor­ris who took her to watch the Queens­lan­ders when she was a Year 8 pupil.

“They get quite in­volved nowa­days.”

A mem­ber of the cham­pion Cen­tral U18 girls’ team, Nor­ris rel­ishes the chal­lenge be­cause it brings tal­ent from across the ditch to the pro­vin­cial back­yard.

“We get to ex­pe­ri­ence the dif­fer­ent ways in which they play.”

The Aussies are renowned for their raz­zle and daz­zle con­cocted in a hot and hu­mid en­vi­ron­ment, of­fer­ing the Bay an op­por­tu­nity to grow its port­fo­lio of ex­pe­ri­ences.

Nor­ris be­lieves the Bay teams tend to em­brace a “clin­i­cal” style of game where the ball does most of the work, where they sim­ply toil for each other.

Nev­er­the­less, she sus­pects the Queens­lan­ders are dy­namic and have some­thing dif­fer­ent up their sleeves each year.

Win­ning the se­ries again is im­per­a­tive for the Greg Ni­col­coached girls who Nor­ris feels have what it takes to em­u­late that feat.

Bar two, all played last year. Ni­col, who has men­tored to Black Sticks level as an as­sis­tant, came into her mind­set a lit­tle more since last year dur­ing the Cen­tral age-group train­ing.

“He wanted us to try to push to the hard­est we could to be the best pre­pared for this trial.”

Nor­ris was nurs­ing a quad in­jury six weeks out from the tri­als but Ni­col sug­gested she take four weeks to re­cu­per­ate and ar­rive fresh for the ap­praisal.

“He takes every­thing into con­sid­er­a­tion . . . and, if need be, take you aside to tell you cer­tain things you need to fix,” she says.

Ni­col makes them think out­side the square.

No doubt she har­bours a de­sire to rep­re­sent her coun­try as a Black Stick but ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, in­clud­ing abroad, will dic­tate terms. Crim­i­nol­ogy beck­ons as a ca­reer path.

Lucca Bur­ley echoes Nor­ris’ sen­ti­ments of play­ing pedi­gree play­ers from over­seas.

“I’ve watched them be­fore and they’ve cer­tainly shown us how to play hockey a few times,” says Bur­ley, who is un­der the tute­lage of Black Sticks vet­eran Shea McAleese.

The New Zealand U18 rep­re­sen­ta­tive, who made his de­but with the age-equiv­a­lent Cen­tral team fol­low­ing a Bay U15 stint, says the tourists will have some na­tional reps as well.

The Napier Boys’ High School Year 11 pupil says the Queens­lan­ders bring ag­gres­sion with play­ers who have a nose for plant­ing the ball into the back of the net.

Con­se­quently that as­pect be­comes a pet project for the 15-year-old striker.

“That’s prob­a­bly some­thing I pride my­self on — putting the ball in the back of the net.”

The for­mer Taradale In­ter­me­di­ate pupil says com­mit­ment and a will­ing­ness to be a “loose can­non” for the col­lec­tive helps.

Bur­ley, whose fa­ther, Craig Bur­ley, is Bay U18 co-as­sis­tant coach with Sam Hanks, be­lieves in fall­ing back to help the halves cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties rather than just wait­ing for them to thread crosses for goals.

The for­mer Bledis­loe Pri­mary School pupil, who started play­ing at 10, feels crit­i­cal de­ci­sions help find a bal­ance in pass­ing or go­ing for goal.

Bur­ley plays for Te Awa in the se­nior men’s club com­pe­ti­tion.

They fin­ished third in the play­offs af­ter beat­ing Taupo who have been com­pet­ing for the past two years.

“I orig­i­nally played soc­cer and then some­how kept on go­ing down to the turf to watch dad play and coach so I just got into it,” says the for­mer Napier City Rovers player.

Un­like Nor­ris, he didn’t find a smooth tran­si­tion in codes.

“I felt like pick­ing up the stick was the hard­est thing be­cause you couldn’t trans­fer a lot of skills from soc­cer to hockey with the changes in ball size and chang­ing what you’re us­ing [legs to sticks].”

He laughs when asked if the hard ball was an is­sue although he didn’t give it any thought.

“I’ve got a few scars from be­ing hit a few times on the shin and stuff,” says Bur­ley.

He salutes McAleese as men­tor and hav­ing im­mac­u­late stick work.

“He’ll def­i­nitely be a key fac­tor to our cam­paign this year,” he says of the Olympian and pro­fes­sional.

NBHS team­mate and goal­keeper Luke Elmes is also is a na­tional U18 rep in the Bay side.

The Bay play­ers are fa­mil­iar with each other be­cause of Hast­ings Boys’ High School’s and Lind­is­farne Col­lege’s in­volve­ment with the school­boys’ Rankin Cup tour­ney.

Only five play­ers are re­turn­ing from last year’s side but have come through the lower age-group ranks.

Bur­ley wants to be­come a Black Stick and in­tends to take a gap year to travel to Europe to broaden his hockey hori­zons.

Sasha Nor­ris 17, a Year 12 pupil at Wood­ford House, will rep­re­sent the Hawke’s Bay un­der-18 girls’ hockey team against Aus­tralian.

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