Hager quits Black Sticks for GB role

Coach had great suc­cess with women’s team but blun­dered with scathing email

Rotorua Daily Post - - Sport -

MHOCKEY

ark Hager has re­signed as Black Sticks women’s head coach and will im­me­di­ately take up a role as head coach of the Great Bri­tain and Eng­land women’s teams.

Hager, who has led the Black Sticks through their most suc­cess­ful pe­riod dur­ing his 10 years at the helm, will start his new role this week.

Black Sticks as­sis­tant coach Sean Dancer will be­come act­ing head coach and will con­tinue to pre­pare the team for the FIH Pro League which starts in just over two weeks.

With the team en­vi­ron­ment the sub­ject of an in­de­pen­dent re­view, Hockey NZ act­ing board chair­man Shane Collins em­pha­sised that Hager was leav­ing on his own terms.

“We are ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed to lose one of the world’s top coaches. Mark and his coach­ing staff have con­tin­ued to have the sup­port of the board and man­age­ment and we wish him well in his next en­deav­our,” Collins said. “His legacy will take some match­ing.”

The re­view was launched in Septem­ber, after al­le­ga­tions of a neg­a­tive team en­vi­ron­ment emerged.

Hager, a for­mer Aus­tralian in­ter­na­tional, ac­ci­den­tally sent an email to the en­tire team, nam­ing and sham­ing in­di­vid­ual play­ers for their per­for­mance and ef­fort, after fin­ish­ing 11th at the women’s World Cup.

Three months ear­lier, they had won gold at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

The find­ings are ex­pected later this month.

Hockey New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Fran­cis said Hager has been an out­stand­ing coach who had taken the per­for­mance of the Black Sticks Women’s team to un­prece­dented lev­els.

“When Mark took the reins in 2009 we were well and truly out­side the world’s top 10 coun­tries. Since then he has taken this team to two Olympic fourths, two World League fi­nals, a Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy bronze, and a medal of ev­ery colour at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

“We have been ranked as high as third in the world and have never been out­side the top six.

“These are by far the best re­sults in the his­tory of our women’s game.”

Hager said it was sad to leave a team that he re­garded as his whanau.

“I’ve been for­tu­nate to coach the Black Sticks for a decade and even more for­tu­nate to have two world­class play­ers in Kayla Shar­land and Stacey Michelsen as my cap­tains to help us achieve goals that were firsts for this team.”

He had been es­pe­cially look­ing for­ward to lead­ing the group through to the Tokyo Olympics.

“The team has the po­ten­tial to suc­ceed in Tokyo and I wish them well.

“I have been torn over the last six months, firstly whether to ap­ply for the Eng­land and Great Bri­tain role and then whether to ac­cept it,” said Hager

“But given its pro­file as one of the pin­na­cle coach­ing roles in world hockey, I have come to re­alise it is in my best in­ter­ests and those of the Black Sticks to ac­cept this op­por­tu­nity and for some­one else to lead this tal­ented group of ath­letes through to Tokyo.”

“Ul­ti­mately, the op­por­tu­nity to coach Eng­land/Great Bri­tain is one that ex­cites me with the qual­ity of the teams, the wealth of com­pe­ti­tion on their doorstep in Europe and the re­sources avail­able.”

Hager said he has taken on board some feed­back dur­ing the re­view pe­riod about his coach­ing style but would re­tain the essence of what had worked so suc­cess­fully over the last decade in tak­ing and keep­ing the team in the world’s top five.

Black Sticks cap­tain Michelsen said Hager had a huge pas­sion for the team.

“Mark has been an in­te­gral part of al­low­ing this team to grow to our high­est rank­ing of third in the world. Per­son­ally he has pro­vided me with the en­vi­ron­ment and the guid­ance to de­velop into the player I am to­day, and I am very grate­ful for that,” Michelsen said.

“I am very sad to see Mark go but I do un­der­stand his de­ci­sion and wish him all the best in his new role.”

The Hockey NZ Board last week re­ceived a copy of the in­de­pen­dent re­view of the Blacks Sticks Women’s team en­vi­ron­ment un­der­taken by em­ploy­ment lawyer Maria Dew.

Collins said the board was work­ing through the re­view’s rec­om­men­da­tions and was de­vel­op­ing key ac­tions which will be shared with man­age­ment and the NZ Hockey Play­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

Once fi­nalised, Hockey NZ will re­lease a sum­mary of the re­view and the cor­re­spond­ing ac­tion plan.

This is ex­pected to oc­cur later this month.

Photo / Pho­to­sport

Mark Hager led the Black Sticks women to un­prece­dented suc­cess but also made an er­ror when call­ing out the ef­fort of some in­di­vid­u­als.

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