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Teen wins spot at Rio with Black Sticks

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/06/2016
Hayden Phillips © Getty Hayden Phillips

An 18-year-old with just 11 caps to his name has been named in the New Zealand men's hockey team for the Rio Olympics.

Midfielder Hayden Phillips, who only made his debut this year, will join a host of experienced veterans in the 16-man squad.

Four players - captain Simon Child, Ryan Archibald, Shea McAleese and Bradley Shaw - will be playing at their third Olympic Games.

"Our team is well balanced with eight new Olympians and eight having experienced Olympic competition before," said coach Colin Batch.

Goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex misses out to Devon Manchester, while midfielder Nick Haig, capped 186 times, is also omitted.

He said the team was named early to give it extra preparation to hone combinations.

"We have named our team early which gives us extra time to prepare and train together as a unit."

Batch said the side, which initially missed qualifying for Rio but were allocated a place after South Africa withdrew its team, would not find it easy in Brazil.

"Rio does offer many more challenges than what athletes experienced at London.

"It is not just about coping with the environment, but all teams face tough competition in both mens pools. There is no easy path to securing a quarter-finals spot.

"However, I'm confident that we can perform well and be a strong contender at the business end of the tournament," he said. 

The Black Sticks open their Olympic campaign against Australia on August 6 and also face Great Britain, Belgium, Spain and Brazil in their pool.

Squad: Ryan Archibald, Simon Child, James Coughlan, Blair Hilton, Hugo Inglis, Stephen Jenness, Devon Manchester, Shea McAleese, Shay Neal, Arun Panchia, Hayden Phillips, Kane Russell, Bradley Shaw, Blair Tarrant, Nick Wilson, Nic Woods.

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