The Vantage Black Sticks Men and Women go up against Australia and Papua New Guinea this week at the Oceania Cup in Sydney.
The continental championship runs from 11-15 October at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre.
The Oceania Cup is an event that has traditionally seen the final contested by the two Oceania giants, New Zealand and Australia, but it is also an event that allows the developing nations of Oceania to pit their skills against the two top 10 ranked opponents.
With both the Vantage Black Sticks and Australia already qualified for the Men's and Women's Hockey World Cups in Bhubaneswar and London respectively, a World Cup place will become available if either New Zealand or Australia win the final. France men and Ireland women are the two teams anxiously waiting on the results from Sydney.
This edition of the Oceania Cup will see Papua New Guinea Men and Women taking part for the third time in their history. The Pacific Island Men’s team (world ranking 61st) took a bronze medal at the 2013 edition of the Cup after beating Samoa 3-0.
Papua New Guinea Women (world ranking 50th) have also competed twice before, finishing fourth on both occasions.
In the 2015 edition of the Oceania Cup, the Kookaburras were made to fight every step of the way by the Kiwis in a thrilling match that saw Australia take a 3-1 lead then face a frantic last seven minutes to hold onto the lead as the Vantage Black Sticks brought the score back to 3-2.
In the Women’s competition, Australia has the bragging rights as the Hockeyroos have won the event six times but New Zealand have taken the trophy home on three occasions and will be looking to build on a successful Hockey World League Semi-Final campaign where they comprehensively outpointed Australia (New Zealand finished in silver medal position, while Australia finished fifth).
The matches between these two Oceania rivals couldn’t be closer. The past two editions have gone to shoot-out, with Australia taking the gold on both occasions, but during the regulation match time, these are teams that cannot be divided when it comes to continental supremacy.
The Oceania Cup gets underway on 11th October with the Vantage Black Sticks in action against Papua New Guinea on opening night.
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2017 Oceania Cup Match Schedule (all in NZ time)
Wednesday, 11 October
Women - 8:00pm, Vantage Black Sticks vs Papua New Guinea
Men - 10:00pm, Kookaburras vs Papua New Guinea
Thursday, 12 October
Women - 8:00pm, Hockeyroos vs Papua New Guinea
Men - 10:00pm, Vantage Black Sticks vs Kookaburras
Saturday, 14 October
Men - 5:00pm, Vantage Black Sticks vs Papua New Guinea
Women - 7:00pm, Vantage Black Sticks vs Hockeyroos
Sunday, 15 October
Women - 5:00pm, Final
Men - 7:30pm, Final