It’s not often the Black Sticks get to play in Christchurch, but invariably when they do, it means something extra special to senior striker Olivia Merry.
‘We have to be Auckland based nowadays, so it’s few and far between to get back to Christchurch, but it doesn’t take away how special it is, and to get to play 3 games back to back at home is something that’s pretty cool.’
Nearly 2 years ago, it was her 150th Test match for New Zealand, and on Friday night when the Black Sticks take on Great Britain, it’ll mark the official opening of the hockey turfs at Nga Puna Wai.
The two new turfs are long awaited replacements following the destruction of the city’s former hockey hub, Porritt Park during the 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes.
For many reasons that alone would be a reason to celebrate, especially for a home-grown Cantabrian, one of only two in the squad.
But given the earthquake of February 11, 2011 claimed the life of one of the women who inspired the 27-year-old to push for higher honours, this weekend will be even more special.
‘It probably wasn’t until 13-14 when I realised that I wanted to do it (play rep hockey) and I think that’s where the obsession set in. You have a few idols in the team, and I guess it all stems from there.’
‘Amanda Hooper was in my club team (at Carlton Redcliffs) and she was a Black Stick at the time and she really inspired me to want to do it.’
Olivia’s Mum Catarina is set to ensure the whole team get the special treatment too. ‘Mum’s invited the whole team up for dinner, so it’s pretty cool, pretty special to be able to do that. It’s pretty cool to be able to show everybody where I grew up and go home for a night.’
One of those will be former team mate and now assistant coach and mentor Katie Glynn, who’s hardnosed style seems to have rubbed off on the Avonside Girls High School Old Girl.
‘The way she played when she was in her prime, she’s a fantastic example to younger players. Her hunger in the circle, her determination, is something that you drive from within yourself. You can’t teach that, and I think she was very dangerous as soon as she got in the circle and that’s why I very much looked up to her as one of my idols, for that reason.’
With headlines reading ‘Bloodied Merry’ the last time the Black Sticks played in Christchurch thanks to the broken nose Merry sustained in the match against the USA almost mimicking a famous scene at the London 2012 Olympic Games when Glynn returned to the turf with her head bandaged like a mummy after copping a full swing of a hockey stick to the head, it seems Merry has well and truly stepped into her idol’s shoes and will no doubt have other young Canterbury girls idolising her and her style of play.
The Black Sticks take on Great Britain on Friday night, who wre now coached by long time Black Sticks coach Mark Hager, before taking on Germany and China the weekend following.