Young Māori players win opening match at hockey festival

With almost all the senior Māori hockey players unavailable for the Festival of Hockey in Napier, the mantle has been handed to the young bloods, who have stepped up and come away with a 3-2 win in their opening match.

It's the youngest team the New Zealand Māori men have ever put together to play in this tournament.

Coach Grant Hunt says, “I think youth is a good thing to bring in and clearly their fitness is good because they're young and have all this energy.”

After the withdrawal of many of the seniors, it came down to selecting players from the junior team.  Most either teens or early twenties, the youngest is only 15 years old.

Hunt says, “It means they get an opportunity to play at a higher standard and be seen by selectors.”

Ngawati Edmonds says, “Because we're all mostly the same age it's pretty much like we have been playing together for quite a while.”

Strong defence from Harley Kopa, the most senior player in the team at 31 years old.

Mixed together with the tenacious play of the youngsters, they were able to take the win from their seasoned opponents the National Senior XI.

Captain of the team, Harley Kopa says, “The boys played really well and fought hard right to the end they came back with a flurry there at the end.”

In a competition against five other national and international teams, they will be hoping history repeats itself tomorrow, when they take on NZ India, a team they beat last year.