Gold medal win marks end of Hager's decade-long drought
THE GAMES: New Zealand's first hockey gold medal at an Olympic or Commonwealth Games marks the end of a decade-long drought for coach Mark Hager.
The Maryborough-born maestro, who won an Olympic bronze medal for Australia at Atlanta in 1996, took on New Zealand's head coaching role 10 years ago.
Silver and bronze medals at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games respectively, and fourths at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, in as well as heartbreaking losses in other tournaments, left the Black Sticks dreaming of gold.
The breakthrough finally came on Saturday, as Hager orchestrated a dominant 4-1 win against the Hockeyroos in the gold medal match.
"Fantastic, to finally win one, this is really pleasing,” Hager said.
"This is my third Commonwealth Games with this group, and now I have a bronze, silver and gold medal, it's a good achievement. I'm just so happy for a lot of the girls who put a lot of hours in. They're not that well paid, but they take pride in that black shirt and pride in their country.”
Hager enjoyed a storied career as a player, one that included 231 games for Australia from 1985 to 1996.
So how does this success compare to his exploits as a player?
"I was never lucky enough to win a gold medal at an Olympic Games, I had a World Cup when I was very young, and the Commonwealth Games weren't available when I was playing (it was introduced in 1998, two years after he retired) so it's a different feeling,” he said.
"When you're a player, you're a bit naive about everything, sometimes you're a bit selfish about what goes on, but when you're a coach you're a real family. You have to make sure everyone's on the same page and driving towards the same goal.”
Hager, who started his hockey journey at Wallaroos, said his players would celebrate, take a break, then regroup for the World Cup.