THE New Zealand women’s hockey team has made the perfect start to its Olympic campaign, beating Australia 1-0 at the Riverbank Arena on Sunday morning.
It was a fast and exciting match, but the only goal came in the third minute, with Cathryn Finlayson converting from a penalty corner.
Coach Mark Hager said he had a feeling during the bus ride to the venue that his side was going to cause an upset.
“We were in the bus on the way out here and it was deadly silent,” Hager told Fairfax NZ.
“They were so focused on what they wanted to do. It was the most switched on I have ever seen them. There was a sense of ‘we have a job to do let’s go and do it’.”
NZ still have to play powerhouses Germany and Argentina, but the win has given them the perfect start as they look to progress from their pool.
“It is a great start for us,” Hager said.
“I said to Kayla (Sharland) and Emily (Naylor) when they walked off, ‘well that is one better than last time’, when they didn’t win a game (in Beijing) at all.
“We always spoke we had to come away with at least a point, to get three is crucial.”
Despite turning over too much ball on attack, the Black Sticks were quicker and fitter than their rivals, and had goalkeeper Bianca Russell to thank for some stunning saves.
Despite a few gripes at the umpiring, Australian coach Adam Commens did have praise for the Kiwis.
“They have the ability to beat any side, what we saw today was as good as I’ve seen them play, particularly in defence,” Commens said.
” They are a team on the up and certainly capable of winning medals.”
Their next match is against South Africa on Tuesday morning.