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Festival of Hockey ready to bully off

Ready to bully off

The ice truck has been ordered, the pitch watered to exacting specifications, and the international refs have been tucked up in their hotels.

And the call has gone out to our ex-pat communities to back their teams competing in the upcoming international women’s hockey tournament.

The first four Festival of Hockey games kick off at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park on Saturday (April 2) between Korea and Canada, Australia and Japan, New Zealand and India, and China and Ireland.

As in previous years, organisers Hawke’s Bay Sports Events and Education Consortium, have engaged with the communities within Hawke’s Bay which will have teams at the events.

China has been a constant visitor, and the community attends games and hosts events for the team, says event director David Nancarrow.

The eight teams have been arriving in Hawke’s Bay over the last week, getting ready for what has become an internationally respected tournament in its three years. By Thursday the 16 international officials who will oversee the matches had arrived in town, a truck that will manufacture the ice required for post-match recovery had been confirmed, and the last minute titivation of the sports park grounds completed.

Pool games continue on Sunday and Tuesday, with quarterfinals and semi-finals held next Thursday and Saturday. Sunday will be the big day with four finals matches. The play off for top spot will start at 5.15pm.

Alongside the top tier matches there is also The Affiliates Tournament, made up of top Australian and New Zealand teams facing off at Park Island in Napier, and The Furnware Cup, for first eleven girls’ school teams. The latter is played mainly at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park, with three of the four finals matches played at Park Island.

Final preparations at the sports park have been building up, with special requirements for the watering of the international-grade pitch, lighting checks, contingency planning, and a final titivation of the surrounding lawns and gardens.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park Trust chief executive Jock Mackintosh says those final preparations take some extra planning, but in reality all the hard work was done just over two years ago when the top tier infrastructure was put in. That included the international grade pitch and practice area, the media and lighting towers, and the extra seating facing out toward the hockey centre.

It is New Zealand’s only hockey facility capable of hosting international level matches.

The festival is one of the most prestigious events attracted to the sports park each year; alongside the annual Waitangi Day celebrations, incorporating sports and the regional kapa haka competition, which attracts about 15,000 people, the Potts Classic athletics meet, which this year hosted Australian athletes, and the once-in-a-lifetime Te Matatini (billed as the Olympics of kapa haka), which will be held at the park in 2017.

Sports park chairman and Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule is encouraging Hawke's Bay people to get along and support the event. “This is the first multi-year international multi-nation sporting event in Hawke's Bay. The talent of these athletes is amazing and needs to be seen to be believed.”

Mr Mackintosh is expecting great competition again this year. “We have three of the top five women’s hockey teams in the world: Australia, New Zealand and China so the skill level is very high. Last year’s Australia versus New Zealand game was very exciting, and we’ll get just as good, if not better, action this year.

“It is a very fast game and first timers when they see it are always very impressed.”

For more information and tickets see: www.hockeyfestival.nz


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