New Zealand became the 6th country to name their World Cup team, leaving just Zimbabwe and Ireland to declare their final teams for the competition in July. Shane Hill, Dean Gower and Sue Gower all receive their 3rd World Cup call ups and then they are joined by 5 players who are playing in the World Cup for the first time. Laura Dempster, Olivia Gloyn and Beth Peaker make up the Ladies section, while Regan Gloyn and Daryel Mouat are the extra two men (editor’s note: Well we think it might be Daryel Mouat, our spies in New Zealand told us it was “Gary” but there is no Gary in the New Zealand World Cup squad so we have gone for the name which sounds most like Gary in case our spies are hard of hearing. No doubt we will turn out to be wrong and have to publish some sort of apology) (editor’s note on the editor’s note: we were wrong and have now published an apology, the fourth man is actually New Zealand’s former coach, Gary Malcolm).
The event will be a homecoming for Beth Peaker who was born in the UK and lived and played there until 2008. It means there could be two former UK players lined up against their old country, after Sophie Sargeant was named in the Zimbabwe squad last week. However, Beth’s appearance in the New Zealand side is far more expected and far less controversial within the UK, she last played for the UK in 2007 in the Under 21’s and then withdrew from the UK squad for the Quadrangular in 2008 when she said she wanted to make her future in New Zealand with her partner, Shane Hill. She should receive a warm welcome from the UK crowd on her return, though if New Zealand were to beat the host nation it could be a slightly more sore point.
New Zealand finished 4th in the 2007 World Cup and 2nd in the 2003 World Cup. They would love to win it at the third time of asking but whether they can remains to be seen. They will have to overcome their great rivals Australia, who still look the strongest side in the competition despite losing one of their best players in Suzanne Thomas at the end of last year.
It’s not just Australia that New Zealand will have to deal with, South Africa look very strong, with a team packed with young, confident and exciting players and the UK do have home advantage, though losing Guy Robertson in recent weeks means they are perhaps now slightly weaker than they were in 2007 when they finished second and beat New Zealand in the semi finals. Also it might be very unwise to discount Zimbabwe and Ireland, who both look likely to have stronger teams than in 2007.
However, the youth New Zealand has brought into their squad, particularly on the ladies section, could give them a new edge which perhaps they were missing in 2007. In Shane Hill and Sue and Dean Gower they have experience to guide their younger players and also proven brilliance to inspire their team. They might still not be able to win the World Cup but it would be a fool who bets against them improving on their 4th place finish in 2007.