Taranaki trio selected for Central National Hockey League squad
22 Aug 2017
They might have gone to the trials for the experience, but a trio of young Taranaki hockey players have been selected to represent the Central Mysticks in the National Hockey League.
Striking duo Holly Pearson and Hope Ralph will line up for the Central women's side for the six-game league in Wellington in September, while defensive midfielder Anna Crowley was named as the non-travelling reserve.
"There were quite a lot of strong players, like ex-Black Sticks, in all of our positions - so I thought I was just going to be there for the experience of being able to trial," Crowley said.
Crowley, 17, will get to play in the six-match NHL, which is held at Wellington's National Hockey Stadium from September 16-24, if another player in the squad is unable to play for whatever reason.
"I didn't really expect that I'd get into the squad. When I got told I was the non-travelling reserve I wasn't really gutted, I was more surprised to be named in the first place."
The trio attended a trial in late July, after their under-18 team went unbeaten at the national age group tournament earlier that month.
"We had to finish with under-18s before we were allowed to trial of NHL, and we had to be selected to trial," Ralph said.
Player eligibility rules at the national level say an individual can only play for any two of under-18s, under-21s and NHL.
It will be their first time representing Central at the top level, and they admitted the nerves were starting to creep in.
The team had a warm-up match over the weekend, with Pearson, 18, and Ralph, 17, realising exactly how high a level they were playing when they were up front with 213-cap Black Stick Kayla Whitelock playing in behind them.
While the step up is likely to be a more physical one, Pearson and Ralph played in the local men's premier league throughout this season and got a feel for more physical play.
"They didn't go easy," Pearson said. "It was good, you can give them a shove back if they shove you...it's a different kind of game.
"From playing the warm-up in the weekend, I reckon that was more fast and physical than the men's league in Taranaki."
With all three having been through Sacred Heart Girls' College, with Crowley and Ralph currently in year 13, they said coach Karla Ralph had played a big part in getting them to where they are.
The trio have a lot of local support coming in many forms, from CMK accountants, strength and conditioning coach Chris Luke, and David and Jamie Stones - who allow them to train with the New Plymouth Boys' High School squad.
"Normally by the time they get to this stage, they've had to move away," Taranaki Hockey executive officer Denise Hill said.
"We've got high hopes for these girls, but the big thing for us is that they're all here."