SASI stars enjoy spark of Japanese challenge

A testing hockey series in Brisbane recently was just what four SASI athletes appreciated when they lined up with the Australian National Training Centre squad which took on Japanese combo the Coca Cola Red Sparks.

Miki Spano on hockey field hitting ball

A MIX of Australia's most promising hockey athletes enjoyed an intense but rewarding competition with the Australian National Training Centre (NTC) squad when it took on a Japanese composite team - the Coca Cola Red Sparks.

Played in Brisbane over five days the young Australian team won the last two of the four matches played against a solid opponent.

SASI athletes Miki Spano, Gabi Nance, Hattie Shand and Euleena MacLachlan were selected with other budding emerging Aussie talents.

Spano, 22, said the matches were very important in the development of the national program.

"I have played Japanese teams before and what I have found playing them, and teams like China, is that they are very structured,'' Spano said.

"I took out of the games that you have to be well organised and physical and to use your speed, they are very quick.

"There is such a variety of player and for me I really benefited from the event.

"It was so good that SASI sent us over there as the experience was great.''

Nance is back in the swing of the national program after playing in the Netherlands for nearly 12 months in a top domestic league.

SASI and national women's coach Tim White said the series was a great chance for the athletes to play high-level international opposition.

"The Coca Cola Red Sparks had a number of Japanese national players so it was pleasing to see the NTC athletes raise their game and win the final two games of the series,'' White said.

"All the athletes returned to their home states to now work hard preparing for the inuagural Hockey One league.

The SA men's and women's teams will be known as Adelaide Fire. Before that many players will be involved in the finals' series with their local clubs.

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