Hager credited for NZ’s success
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.
Sam Charlton in action for the Black Sticks against India. Inset: Mark Hager.