NZ goalie: 'It's as good as having a home tournament for me'
HOCKEY: The 2019 Oceania Cup in Rockhampton will be like a home tournament for New Zealand goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon.
The 26-year-old is from Maryborough and a large contingent of family and friends will make the 400km journey north to watch her in the international tournament, which starts at Kalka Shades on Thursday.
O'Hanlon qualifies for New Zealand courtesy of her father, who was born in Auckland.
The New Zealand and Australian men's and women's teams will play a best-of-three Test series, with the winners automatically qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Intercontinental 5s, which feature Pacific Island nations Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, will be run in conjunction with the Oceania Cup.
The New Zealand teams arrived in Rockhampton yesterday, and the Aussies will land tomorrow.
O'Hanlon won gold with the Black Sticks at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, and she was the hero of the team's thrilling penalty shoot-out win over England in the semi-final.
She said it was fantastic to be playing another international event in her home state.
"It's just as good as having a home tournament for me, same as the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast,” she said.
"It's just as close to home for me so it's really special.”
O'Hanlon expected her supporter base to be in "outrageously loud form” during the three-Test series.
"It's really nice to be able to see them and for them to be able to support me but it does add a bit of pressure, especially on Australian soil,” she said.
"We're confident but we know it's going to be very tough.
"Australia are well-prepared, they're in good form but we've been working hard and we're really looking forward to it.”
O'Hanlon said the first thing for the New Zealanders would be to acclimatise to Rockhampton's warm weather.
"We all got off the plane in puffer jackets,” she said.
"We'll get some training in, get used to the heat, get some movement through the legs, get used to the turf and get ready for the big one on Thursday.”
Teammate Stacey Michelsen, who had not been to Rockhampton, said it was "hugely exciting” for the city to host the Oceania Cup.
"We're feeling good. Everyone's definitely nervous but excited,” she said.
"We're all aware it will be a huge challenge to beat Australia, especially on home soil for them, but it's a challenge we're looking forward to.”
Michelsen said the team's preparations were going well.
"We're a team that definitely likes to go forward with the ball and when we do that well we are very threatening,” she said.
Test matches will be played on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday
- Daily: Reserved area (all ages) $35, adult $25, children (5-17) $15, children (4 and under) free.
- 3-day pass: Reserved area (all ages) $95 adult, $65 children (5-7), $35, children (4 and under) free.
- Go to rockhampton tickets.com.au