By: Brendon Egan
The Southland Times
Hockey Southland chairwoman Penny Simmonds has issued a rallying call for Southland sports fans to get out and support the Black Sticks this weekend.
Crowd numbers at this week's World Cup qualifier tournament at Turnbull Thomson Park in Invercargill have been down considerably on those at the Oceania Cup, held at the same venue in August. But Simmonds was optimistic there would be a pleasing turnout for the final tomorrow, with the Black Sticks already assured of a spot in the decider.
"The indication is that the crowds are going to be good for Saturday and Sunday," Simmonds said yesterday. "It's a really rare event to have six international teams of any sport here."
The attendance at tomorrow's final should be bolstered with a busload of fans from Dunedin and Central Otago making the trip to Invercargill.
Hockey New Zealand director Ramesh Patel said he had been disappointed by the crowds attending, but believed it had a lot to do with the bad weather that had hit the deep south this week. Aside from the weather, the Oceania track cycling championships have been on at the ILT Velodrome at night-time this week, with many youngsters also busy with secondary school and tertiary examinations. Patel was hopeful tomorrow's final could attract "a couple of thousand" people, with a ticket to next year's men's World Cup in India riding on the result.
Simmonds stressed it was important Southlanders supported the event if they wanted to see the Black Sticks playing in Invercargill again.