Maryborough pair Hager and O'Hanlon unite for NZ
GRACE O'Hanlon has played her first games for New Zealand's Black Sticks.
The Maryborough product switched her allegiance from the Hockeyroos to the Black Sticks last month due to a lack of opportunities.
O'Hanlon had trained as part of the Hockeyroos setup for two years, but the 24-year-old did not believe an opportunity in Australia's top squad would open in the near future
"I'm 25 this year and I thought if I wanted to play international hockey it was time to act," she told the Chronicle in January.
Now, she is two games into her international hockey career after she debuted against Argentina earlier this week.
Her first game ended in a 3-0 loss, but she secured her first win for New Zealand on Wednesday.
Whether or not she keeps her place in the national side is a question for fellow Maryborough product and Black Sticks coach Mark Hager.
"That is the unknown at this stage and why we have provided Grace with an opportunity to play against the number three-ranked team in Argentina," Hager said. Hager has coached the Black Sticks since 2008.
He said O'Hanlon was evidence of Maryborough's ability to produce not just top-quality players, but those who belong on the world stage.
"Overall it's great to see Maryborough producing quality players who are capable of playing on the world stage," he said.
"I feel strong ties with Maryborough and will be forever grateful for the start given to me by many coaches during my junior years."
On Grace, Hager said the goalkeeper had been on the Black Sticks' radar for some time.
"Grace has been in the Australian system and we have known about her dual citizenship for a couple of years now, we watched her closely during the AHL and saw a GK with great potential - she is tall, athletic and has the agility we are looking for," Hager said. "Grace attended a two-week training block in New Zealand where we were able to asses her in our environment and were impressed with what we saw."
The long-term goal of the Black Sticks' squad is the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, though next year's Commonwealth Games and World Cup are also high on the agenda.
The Black Sticks will play Argentina in the third of their three-games series this morning (AEST).