Darren Smith

Auckland, Feb 14 (IANS) Former international Darren Smith was on Tuesday named the new head coach of the New Zealand men’s hockey team, succeeding Colin Batch, who left in December.

Smith, who played 212 matches for New Zealand from 1995 to 2006, was assistant coach of the national team from 2007 to 2012 before leading the Ireland women’s programme as head coach from 2012 to 2015.

Smith is excited to take on the head coach role which has been a personal dream for a long time, moving on from his most recent role as High Performance Director at Softball New Zealand.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be appointed head coach of the Vantage Black Sticks Men, it’s been something I’ve thought about for 20 odd years and a lot of my life choices have been moulded towards one day being in this role,” he said in a statement.

“The Blacks Sticks programme is something I’m hugely passionate about and I think it’s in great shape with plenty of potential to do even better.

“I’m really looking forward to getting in and spending time with the players, getting a depth of knowledge within the programme and getting started on the pitch.”

New Zealand’s biggest focus this year is the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final in Johannesburg from July 9-23. The tournament serves as a dual qualification event for the HWL Final as well as the 2018 Hockey World Cup.

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