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Source: Massey University

The Black Sticks men lost to Australia on Thursday night in their first international game in 15 months.

It is a familiar feeling for Black Sticks defender and Massey alumni Dane Lett to be back on the Manawatū campus, as he and the Black Sticks take on Australia in the Trans-Tasman series taking place on the Manawatū campus this week.

The Black Sticks men and women teams have not played international matches in 15 months because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, but they’ll be making up for that with four matches against each of their Australian counterparts.

The series also marks the first international hockey games in Manawatū since 2014 and will be the first high profile professional games to be played on the new world-class turf at the university since its opening last July.

“To have test matches in general is really exciting,” says Mr Lett. “The last game was in February last year so there’s been a lot of training, but everyone’s keen for games and Australia is one of the best in the world. It is amazing to have a turf here at Massey.”

Massey University Sport Advancement Manager Jacob Oram says the Trans-Tasman series, which was secured in partnership with the Palmerston North City Council and Hockey Manawatū, is a fantastic opportunity for the university to showcase the new hockey turf.

“The turf was a preferred location for this series as it is identical to the artificial turfs that will be used at the Tokyo Olympics and considering they are just two months away (Covid-19 dependent) playing on this surface will provide great preparation for the four sides,” he says.  

Dane Lett always knew he wanted to study and have a career in sport.

Returning to campus

Mr Lett, 30, grew up in Wairarapa and knew he wanted to study at Massey in Manawatū, describing life in the region as “a different speed to Wellington and bigger cities.”

He says the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition’s reputation is what drew him to Massey and he studied a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise for two years in Manawatū before completing his final year online from Wellington after he joined the Black Sticks. He says his lecturers were really supportive of him balancing study with sporting commitments.

“Sport has been a passion of mine forever, I’ve always played sport and wanted a career that I was passionate and excited about on a daily basis.

“My degree set me up for a platform to go and work. It was really important for me to complete my degree and have something behind me because it’s important to have a career and life after hockey. I’ve always been mindful of that.”

He, along with many of his fellow players, balances working full time while representing New Zealand in the sport. He says he’s fortunate to work as Head of Hockey for Wellington Hockey because they are supportive of him being away and working remotely.

He is enjoying being back in Manawatū and says the facilities are ideal to train, stay and play.

“We’re lucky to be based here on campus, the Sport and Rugby Institute has everything we need like the gym and the turf. In most places everything is jammed, but here everything is open, there’s plenty of space and it’s great.”

His advice to anyone who is studying, working and training is to make sure there is balance in life.

“I’ve found that really beneficial, having balance, because one area never gets too stressful and it’s good not having your eggs all in one basket.”

Mr Oram says the series brings more than 140 players and support staff to Manawatū.

“This series puts the turf at Massey on the map, which will hopefully pave the way for future events and tournaments. This will undoubtedly enhance Massey’s reputation as a leading sport and recreation university and will contribute to the attraction of the Manawatū campus as a destination for athletes, especially hockey players.”