The Dominion Post

Aussie striker called up by Black Sticks

- BRENDON EGAN

AN AUSTRALIAN-BASED striker with New Zealand links is the surprise selection in the Black Sticks’ women’s squad for this week’s series against Canada in Whangarei.

New Zealand’s firepower upfront has been boosted by the addition of Kirsten Pearce, who has played for New South Wales.

Pearce, 23, grew up on the North Shore before shifting with her family to Australia at a young age. She has dual citizenshi­p and will debut for the Black Sticks in the series.

The former Australian under21 internatio­nal spoke to North Harbour Hockey high performanc­e manager Dave Kosoof about playing in Auckland and he alerted national coach Mark Hager.

Pearce impressed during a national camp in January and turned out for New Zealand A in warm-up games against the Canadians.

Hager said she had teamed up well with strikers Anita Punt and Stacey Michelsen at training and he was keen to see how she fared.

‘‘In the camp, she scored three or four good quality goals,’’ he said. ‘‘She has good hockey knowledge and understand­ing, where to be, and how to set up plays.’’

The other uncapped player in the 18-player squad is Canterbury midfielder-striker Rachel McCann.

Hager said another strong national league season had propelled her into the team. McCann also shone in the Future Black Sticks’ series against their Indian counterpar­ts last year.

‘‘We’ve been watching her pretty closely for the last four or five years. She has a fantastic work ethic, a never-say-die attitude and will put her body on the line.’’

Experience­d midfielder­striker Gemma Flynn returns to the team after being unavailabl­e for December’s Champions Trophy tournament, where New Zealand finished fourth.

Canterbury’s Jordan Grant and Central’s Michaela Curtis have been dropped for the Canada series after failing to meet fitness standards.

‘‘The players know there’s a line drawn and if you don’t reach your targets or get close to it, you’re not going to be con- sidered said.

Potent striker Katie Glynn has overcome her knee issues but remains out with a bulging disc in her back.

Hager was hopeful she would be healthy for the eight-nations tournament in Hastings in April.

Canterbury striker Sophie Cocks is also out after picking up a lung infection at the Champions Trophy in Argentina, then having her tonsils removed.

The three tests against 22ndranked Canada will be an ideal opportunit­y for players to push their selection claims and for Hager to try new combinatio­ns and structures.

The Black Sticks beat Canada 6-0 when they met at last year’s Commonweal­th Games in Glasgow.

for

selection,’’

Hager

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