Nelson Hockey's development officer, Craig Brett, on the Saxton Field hockey turf that will host a New Zealand hockey test for the first time in 62 years. Insert left: The cover of the test programme the last time New Zealand played a test in Nelson, against Australia in 1952. Insert right: The New Zealand that played the Nelson test, including Nelson man Fred Gribble [circled]. Photo: Andrew Board.

Test hockey back in Nelson after 62 years


It took Nelson 50 years to host its first hockey test match and 62 years for its second. But Nelson Hockey’s Craig Brett is confident the wait will be much shorter for the next.

The men’s Blacksticks team will host Canada in two test matches at Saxton Field this Tuesday and Wednesday night. It’s the first fully-fledged test match in Nelson since the city was awarded a test between New Zealand and Australia in 1952, to help celebrate Nelson Hockey’s 50th jubilee.

Craig says with the infrastructure now in place, Nelson can look forward to more test hockey in the future.

“We had the women’s Blacksticks here a few years ago to play an Indian side and, while it wasn’t a full international, we had about 3000 people turn up, so we’ve proven we can get the crowds.

“There is talk that we will get some more soon so we’ll see what happens. We’re keen as mustard to have them but we need to do a good job here first.”

Both games start at 6.30pm and Craig is hoping for at least 1000 people for each game.

“It’s a big, big buzz to get them here and there have been a lot of people working behind the scenes to get them here. We would love Nelson to come out and see an international. Whatever sport you follow, watching any sport at the top level is a buzz and the Blacksticks have some world-class players.”

Local fans will be hoping for a turnaround in fortune from the last game the city hosted in 1952. That day New Zealand lost to Australia on Trafalgar Park, with Nelson man Fred Gribble in the squad as a reserve forward. Fred was described in the official match day programme as having “good goal scoring ability”.

President of Nelson Hockey at the time, B.V. Cox, wrote in the match day programme, “This is the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Nelson Hockey Association and we are deeply appreciative of the honour given us by the New Zealand Hockey Association in allocating this test match to Nelson.”

Sixty two years later, Craig says the association is just as appreciative.

“This is the pinnacle for us. Now we want to live up to our reputation with a great occasion so we get more in the future.”

Discounted tickets for the Blacksticks v Canada at Saxton Field on Tuesday and Wednesday nights are on sale at, or on the gate before each game. Gates open at 5pm on both nights with the test matches starting at 6.30pm.