Backing the Black Sticks

Black Sticks captain and Massey University Business graduate Simon Child. Images courtesy of Hockey New Zealand.

Black Stick and Massey Business student Blair Hilton.

Black Sticks captain Simon Child has a big task ahead – uniting his team in Rio, in the hope of winning gold. But aside from the team’s love of hockey, they also have another bond – 14 of the 16-strong team, are current or former Massey University students or graduates.

This is the third Olympic Games for 28-year-old Child, who represented New Zealand in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, as well as at three Commonwealth Games. Child graduated with a Bachelor of Business Studies in 2014, and is now working at Colliers International as an investment sales broker.

“Massey was great. If I was struggling with the workload, or needed an extension, the course coordinators were always really accommodating and flexible. I don’t know if there are any other universities out there like Massey, but for me, being able to study extramurally allowed me to play international hockey, live aboard and study, which is something very unique,” Child says.

The Auckland-based striker says it can be hard to keep the team on task and inspired, as hockey isn’t yet a professional sport in New Zealand. “Like every other team in New Zealand, we all have a lot of challenges day to day. We have a bunch of guys working full time, we don’t have a lot of financial support.”

He says the sportsmen all know there is life after hockey. “It’s really important to get some sound advice around going to university and getting a tertiary education. It’s only a really small part of our lives, so it’s important that once we finish playing, we have something to go back to."

Child says despite the team not reaching their goals during the last Games campaigns, he’s confident this team has what it takes to bring home a medal. “We are certainly confident in our ability, and we know if we can put a consistent tournament together, that we give ourselves a really, really good shot at a medal.

“It’s just about staying grounded, making sure we are as well prepared as we can be. We are quietly confident. There’s no pressure on us. We are sort of the dark horses, not flying on too many people’s radars, which is a position we are quite comfortable with.”

His advice for his teammates – give it all you’ve got. “This might be the one and only chance you get to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games. Make sure your performance is one, that at the end of the Games, you can proudly say ‘that was the best I had on the day, and I couldn’t have done anymore’.”

In it together

Fellow Black Stick Blair Hilton is heading to his second Olympics after competing in London 2012. The Wellingtonian is currently studying for a Bachelor of Business Studies via distance. He says it is a privilege. “It’s been a long and hard four years since London, so I’m looking forward to trying to take it a step further this time round.”

Twenty-six-year-old Hilton, who hopes to win a gold medal with his team, says studying and training can be extremely difficult at times. “It mainly comes down to pre-planning, and making sure I fit time in for university in between our busy training schedule. Massey is very helpful when things clash because of hockey, or being away overseas, and they help us to plan accordingly.

“A few of us had to sit exams early before our recent tour to Europe. It was a relief knowing the other guys were going through the same stresses, so we can help each other study, and not get too distracted,” Hilton says.

Both Child and Hilton stress the importance of not getting distracted by the Olympics themselves. “It’s important to focus on the task ahead, and treat it just like any other tournament as much as possible, without getting caught up in all of the noise surrounding the Games,” Hilton says.

Consistency and performance were also a recurring theme for the men, when talking about their sporting heroes. Hilton looks to Swiss tennis star Roger Federer for inspiration. “No one can compete with his consistency through the years at such a high level. All my teammates, we have to spend a lot of time with each other, so we try to constantly push each other off the field, so that when we get to Rio we know there was no stone left unturned.”

Child’s biggest sporting inspiration lies a little closer to home. “It’s hard to go past the All Blacks. Not just because they are a New Zealand team, but because of the way they have set the benchmark for team culture and performance. They are a pretty down to earth bunch of guys at the end of the day, but they display a lot of humility in winning and losing, and that’s quite an admirable trait in sports.”

Massey connections in the Black Sticks team for Rio 2016:

Captain - Simon Child – graduated 2014

Ryan Archibald – graduated 2011

James Coughlan – Bachelor of Sport Management student

Blair Hilton – Bachelor of Business Studies student

Hugo Inglis – graduated 2014

Stephen Jenness – Bachelor of Business Studies student

Shea McAleese – former Massey student

Shay Neal – former Massey student

Arun Panchia – graduated in 2014

Hayden Phillips – Bachelor of Business Studies student

Bradley Shaw – Certificate in Science and Technology student

Blair Tarrant – former Massey student

Nick Wilson – graduated 2014

Nic Woods – Bachelor of Business Studies student

Other team members:

Devon Manchester

Kane Russell

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