It was an unexpected call from Black Sticks Women’s coach Mark Hager last week, but one Brooke Neal was pretty pleased to take.
“It was very exciting, I was just at home when he called. I was not expecting him to give me that news,” said Neal, aged 20.
Neal is currently living in Hamilton, playing for Midlands, and is in her final year of a Bachelor of Communications degree at Waikato University.
She grew up in Northland and played hockey at Whangarei Girls High School in the same team as Sam and Charlotte Harrison, Alana Millington and Jasmin McQuinn in the year that they won Federation Cup (the top Secondary School competition).
“Hockey is in our family. I have a brother in the Black Sticks [Shay] so I have learnt from him about what the environment is like, what is required and I definitely look up to him,” said Neal.
Neal has worked her way through the age group levels – from an Under-16, Under-18 and now Under 21 player. At the end of last year she was called up to the Development Squad.
“I have been training with the Black Sticks since then and loving it. It has been really beneficial in terms of my hockey skills and fitness, the faster tempo at training has definitely helped improve my game.”
Neal is driving from Hamilton to team trainings in Auckland twice a week, but is hoping to find an internship in Auckland in her final semester to avoid the commute.
She is also in the Junior Black Sticks Squad and will be pushing for a spot in the Junior World Cup team (Germany, July) which will be named following the Under-21 tournament in May.
Neal replaces Sophie Devine in the National Squad, who moves down to the Development Squad.
CLICK HERE for the 2013 National Women's Squad