Hager cred­ited for NZ’s suc­cess

Sunday News - - SPORT - Ian An­der­son

Sam Charl­ton says de­part­ing coach Mark Hager ‘‘de­manded high stan­dards’’ and that’s what lifted the women’s Black Sticks to un­prece­dented heights.

Hager has re­signed as New Zealand 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 led the Black Sticks to gold at the 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games, de­parts be­fore the re­lease of a re­view into the en­vi­ron­ment in­side the women’s team.

‘‘He was a coach who re­ally de­manded high stan­dards and that’s some­thing that I think is re­ally im­por­tant in high per­for­mance sport,’’ Black Sticks star Charl­ton said. ‘‘I don’t think we would have got to where we were, had he not chal­lenged and en­cour­aged us the way he did.’’

Charl­ton said Hager’s tough ap­proach can re­quire a bal­ance for both coaches and play­ers.

‘‘But I also think that as play­ers you have to be will­ing to be chal­lenged and to raise your stan­dards.

‘‘I think that’s a key fea­ture of be­ing a top ath­lete in high per­for­mance sport – I think we’ve had a pretty good bal­ance of that.

‘‘My ex­pe­ri­ence of the en­vi­ron­ment was that it was def­i­nitely chal­leng­ing at times but I had to be will­ing to be chal­lenged to be the player I am to­day.’’

The re­view was launched in Septem­ber after it emerged that in Au­gust Hager mis­tak­enly sent an email bag­ging play­ers to the en­tire team. The email was sent dur­ing the team’s Hockey World Cup cam­paign and was meant for team man­age­ment only.

The find­ings from the re­view were ex­pected to be re­leased in Novem­ber, but now won’t be an­nounced un­til the end of this month.

The email Hager sent ap­peared to cause a split in­side the team, with some play­ers of­fended by it, but seven for­mer Black Sticks women’s play­ers went pub­lic in sup­port of the coach.

Hockey New Zealand act­ing board chair Shane Collins em­pha­sised that Hager was leav­ing on his own terms.

Charl­ton said she was ‘‘hugely dis­ap­pointed’’ by Hager’s de­par­ture.

‘‘I’ve been lucky enough to have been coached by Mark for nearly nine years now. He’s some­one who’s been able to take us from about ninth in the world to when we were third at our best and fourth at the last two Olympic Games. So we’re pretty dis­ap­pointed to lose some­one who’s such a huge as­set in hockey in New Zealand.

‘‘The other thing I think was re­ally im­por­tant is that he ac­tu­ally made us be­lieve that we could be a top per­form­ing team. It’s one thing to want to do that but he re­ally made us think, yeah, we should be in those fi­nals and those semi­fi­nals.

‘‘He was some­one who achieved many, many firsts – our first and only Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy medal, our high­est per­for­mance at an Olympics and gold on the Gold Coast. Ob­vi­ously we’re still search­ing for that Olympic medal.’’

Charl­ton said she didn’t know if the re­view played a fac­tor in Hager’s switch.

‘‘But I think when you’re given an op­por­tu­nity to coach a high level team like Great Bri­tain who are high­lyre­sourced, a full­time pro­gramme, I think it’d be pretty hard for any coach to turn that down.’’

It won’t take long for Hager to reap­pear in New Zealand – the Black Sticks play Great Bri­tain in Fe­bru­ary in Christchurch in his first game in charge.

GETTY IMAGES

Sam Charl­ton in ac­tion for the Black Sticks against In­dia. In­set: Mark Hager.

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