By Rod Gilmour
Midfielder Emily Defroand believes new coach Mark Hager can turn Great Britain women into a “a forward-playing hockey nation”.
Australian-born Hager quit the New Zealand women’s role last month to join the GB programme ahead of Tokyo 2020 and will get a first glimpse of his new charges in a competitive environment against his old team on Friday night (6am UK time) in Christchurch.
“His track record as a coach is really impressive,” said Defroand. “You can see his style of play which he has adopted with the New Zealand girls over the last decade. They have gone from strength to strength.
“They are a fast, forward-playing hockey nation and if he can bring that input and build upon what we have already it will be exciting for us moving forward.”
After nearly 10 years in charge, Hager left New Zealand under a cloud after allegations of a negative team environment surfaced following the women’s World Cup. An independent review was commissioned, the findings of which are set to come to light shortly.
However, Defroand said that the team had been left assured by performance director Ed Barney and Sally Munday, Great Britain hockey’s chief executive, when the news was first announced.
“They said they were confident in Mark’s appointment and the process they went to in employing him,” said Defroand, who has won back her place in the squad after missing out at last summer’s World Cup.
“They took an extended due diligence process and spoke to UK Sport and New Zealand Hockey. They had a sense of excitement and optimism and that rubbed off on me straight away.
“I have spoken to a few New Zealand girls who played over here and they are really envious of us. They really respected him and liked him as a coach.
“It’s great we can take one of the best coaches around and have him in our ranks.”
Munday told BBC Sport last month: “He’s a good man, a family man, a man of really high values and morals.
“We think he’s going to be a really good fit for us in Great Britain.”
Great Britain’s clash – the team has yet to win a tournament since Rio 2016 – in Christchurch will be the first in their Hockey Pro League campaign.
GB men get the double header under way when they play the Black Sticks at 4am UK time.
We will have an extended interview with Emily on her return to the squad after World Cup disappointment at a later date in The Hockey Paper