Australian teams enjoyed success but just as importantly a fantastic and memorable time at this year’s Oceania Tran-Tasman Masters Hockey Challenge in Christchurch.
The event was held at the Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub from 2-6 May. Similarly to any other Trans-Tasman sporting rivalry, the masters hockey tournaments held between Australia and New Zealand are hotly contested with every player proud to represent their country on the international stage.
In addition to the players, coaching and support staff, the Australian contingent also included 10 umpires and an umpire manager, plus eight technical officials.
The tournament comprised seven women’s age divisions and nine on the men’s side. Each age division played three matches to determine the series winners.
All up, Australia won all bar two of the age categories. The Women 35+ division saw the teams draw the opening encounter. Australia scored a 4-0 win in Match 2 before New Zealand triumphed 3-2 in the final match to leave the Australians ahead on goal difference.
The Women 40+ teams exchanged 2-1 results in the first two games before the Australians won the decider 3-0.
In the Women 45+ division, after losing the opening match 1-0, the Australian team improved the longer the competition went on and were victorious in the subsequent two games.
New Zealand had a dominant series in the Women 50+ competition, the hosts winning all three matches.
The most hotly contested division was the Women 55+ that went down to the wire. Three ties saw the series decided by a shootout, where New Zealand prevailed 2-1.
Australia’s Women 60+ team did not concede a goal on their way to a series win, while the Australian Women 65+ team drew their first match before recording 3-1 wins in the following two games.
The Men 35+ was also one of the most even and competitive of the competition. New Zealand won the opener 4-2 before the Australians responded, winning the next two matches by single goal margins to take out the series.
Australia’s Men 40+, 45+, 50+, 60+ and 65+ teams all proved too strong for their Trans-Tasman counterparts.
The Men 55+ competition saw New Zealand score more goals over the three matches but Australia take out the series after winning matches one and three.
“This Trans-Tasman event, fuelled by our historic rivalry, can be tough, particularly in New Zealand,” said Australia Men’s 55+ coach Michael O’Brien.
“As such, it provides a perfect vehicle to test new players, explore new tactics and rechallenge the experienced members of the team. This is particularly so after a four year absence.
“With a 2-1 series win, my players came away with some healthy lessons, areas for improvement and had a great time as well. It really doesn’t get much better than that.”
The Men 70+ competition also produced some tantalising hockey. The Australians narrowly won the first two games before New Zealand recorded a consolation 2-0 win in the final match.
For the first time, there was a Men’s 75+ age competition with Australia claiming the inaugural gold medal in three lop-sided score lines.
While national pride was on the line and results counted for plenty, the element of enjoyment, participation and comradery between opposing players was just as prominent.
A host of photos from the event can be found on the Hockey Australia Masters Facebook page.