Although McAleese had suggested that perhaps the Tokyo Olympic Games would be his last tournament, he has confirmed the end of his international career after announcing his retirement to the team on Monday following their return to New Zealand from Tokyo.
Blessed with incredible vision and speed, McAleese has been a mainstay of the Black Sticks Men’s team for over 15 years, earning 320 caps – the third most of all time behind fellow legends Phil Burrows and Ryan Archibald.
McAleese has been reflecting on what it has meant to play for the Vantage Black Sticks over the years saying, “I can’t put into words what it meant to play for New Zealand, but I cherished every time I wore the Black Shirt”.
He said he was grateful every time he got to step out onto the turf, acknowledging this in his own way by writing ‘EYLG’ – ‘Enjoy Your Last Game’ on his wrist for every match he played.
McAleese is also appreciative of every person who has helped him along his journey or sent him a message of encouragement, “I have met some amazing people through Hockey all over the world and made lifelong friends.”
Current Blacks Sticks Men’s Assistant Coach and Selector Dean Couzins, who combined with McAleese for over 100 Tests as a player, paid tribute to his long-time teammate, “It was always such a pleasure to firstly play alongside Shea and then what I’d describe as ‘partner with him’ as a coach. He has always given everything for his country and for the VBSM, it is said often but to me he is the epitome of the ‘team man’”.
Of McAleese’s team-first attitude, Couzins highlighted “that he has played in just about every position during his career and trained at length as a back-up GK. He has developed into a leader and role model to so many players that have played for the Black Sticks Men”
Black Sticks Men’s Head Coach Darren Smith added “Shea played under Kevin Towns, Shane McLeod, Colin Batch and more recently under me. Each of these coaches will have a story about Shea and all of them will echo the quality that this man brought to the Black Sticks.
“When Shea started in the black jersey a long time ago, I was a player myself and he immediately struck me as a man who was determined to be not only an international player but one that was amongst our very best. His accomplishments are simply outstanding, but what we appreciated most was the fabric of the man who is what we want from our Black Sticks”.
A credit to his longevity, McAleese represented New Zealand at four Olympic Games, four Commonwealth Games and four FIH World Cups, earning Bronze and Silver Commonwealth medals in 2010 and 2018. Alongside an international career that spanned 16 years, McAleese forged an impressive domestic résumé for Canterbury and the Central Falcons as well as several successful stints in Europe for club sides Hamburg, HGC and Braxgata.
As for the future, McAleese remains coy as to whether he will turn out for his home region of Hawkes Bay at this year’s Ford National Hockey Championship but is looking forward to life after International Hockey, “I’m looking forward to getting home and spending regular time with my wife and little girl. I will need to train for something, what that looks like I’m not sure, maybe a marathon or something, but I’m still very keen to stay involved in hockey and give back to the sport which has given me so much!”