New Year's sojourn for hockey World Cup hopefuls

INDOOR HOCKEY

The new year will start with a bang for five Illawarra and South Coast women's indoor hockey players, selected to travel to Europe as part of an Australian team.

On January 8, Lakeview's Emma McLeish, Aleisha Smith, Claire Rieck, Lisa Farrell and Kyah Gray (Avondale) will begin a three-week tour to play a list of the world's best.

The green and golds will play Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as fixtures against local club sides.

Travelling squad member and South Coast representative McLeish said the tour was perfect for the squad to test themselves against the stronger European teams.

"We get better competition in Europe. They are the world leaders in the sport so to get good competition before the World Cup we really have to test ourselves against the best teams," McLeish said.

The tour will take place straight after all five players represent NSW at the Indoor Hockey National titles in Wollongong and acts as one of the final chances to push for selection in the World Cup squad for Germany, 2015.

As one of the veterans on the overseas tour, McLeish believes it is crucial for younger players to get more familiar with European quality hockey before the Cup.

"The team going on the European tour, there is a mix of older girls and younger girls. So there [are] a few girls who will get exposure to the level of European international indoor hockey," McLeish said.

"Going into a World Cup year, for them to get that exposure, because it is totally different to playing against those teams over there compared to going to a national championship over here.

"They play a different style of hockey, the way they form their team is completely different to the way we do in terms of structure, so it is important for them to see that and play against it," she said.

While in Europe, the Australian side will head to see some of Europe's best play at the Women's Indoor European Championships.

"The tour will help us know where we are at on the world stage," McLeish said.

"If they are the world leaders and we can do well against them, then that is confidence boosting for us."

In addition to playing for the Australian side, Albion Park local Karen Seaman will be manager and assistant coach for the tour.

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