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New Zealand hockey set for independent review after email blunder

Japan scored a huge victory over NZ at the World Cup PIC: England Hockey

By Richard Bright

Hockey New Zealand will conduct an independent review centred on the Black Sticks after criticism over the women’s team culture and environment hit the spotlight over the last two weeks.

Following feedback from past and present players, Hockey NZ and the Hockey Players Association have appointed an independent reviewer after a three-hour meeting on Monday.

Several players have spoken out over team culture under women’s coach Mark Hager, who has been in the role since 2009 and guided the team to Commonwealth gold in April.

“We have agreed a plan to address the feedback, which involves an independent person to look into the feedback and gather more information if appropriate,” a statement said.

“There is absolutely no question that athlete welfare is paramount. At the same time, we must consider and protect the rights of employees.”

The review follows a critical email sent by Hager during the Women’s World Cup.

Hager apparently sent the missive ‘to all’ instead of one recipient, believed to be a coaching member, with the whole team able to view the email which criticised some players’ fitness and work levels.

“… is struggling to run, … struggles to do repeated efforts, … struggles to push through pain and heat,” the email read.

New Zealand lost to Japan in the group stages and then were beaten before the quarter-final stages by Argentina at the World Cup.

Hager apologised for his mistake but the incident saw several players come forward to speak out. That included former Black Sticks goalkeeper Amelia Gibson, who appeared on New Zealand’s two television networks saying that she had previously refrained from speaking out over a fear factor.

Hockey is the latest sport in New Zealand to come under fire from coach and athlete problems. Cycling, soccer and rowing have all had issues in recent months.

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