The Black Sticks Men are in Malaysia getting ready to play their first game of the Azlan Shah Tournament, but luck hasn’t gone their way with Blair Hilton rushed into hospital overnight with appendicitis and this afternoon six team members have been recovering from gastro symptoms.
Players unwell include Simon Child, Arun Panchia, Stephen Jenness, Andy Hayward, Phil Burrows and Hugo Inglis. Black Sticks Men’s coach Shane McLeod says that getting the side back to full health is the team’s number one priority.
The team have been seeking medical advice from the doctors who are at the tournament. Those unwell have been isolated to avoid other team mates being infected. Hilton’s appendicitis is completely unrelated to what the other players have been suffering from.
McLeod says the players are recovering well, and are much better than what they were this morning.
“We are over the worst of it, it just means we are on the back foot for the game tonight and tomorrow. We have been very diligent about trying to contain it and not put anyone else at risk from getting sick, and so far no other players have fallen unwell,” says McLeod
He says other than Hilton who is likely to remain out of play for the entire tournament and is being replaced by Shay Neal who arrives in Malaysia later tonight, all players will take part in tonight’s warm up with the final team being selected just before the game starts. Inglis has been one of the worst players affected, and is unlikely to play.
“We will rest anyone who isn’t well enough. This situation gives us a chance to test players in different positions, so that is one positive we can take from it,” says McLeod.
Tonight they will play India at 10.05pm (NZT), but McLeod knows the real challenge will be having the team well enough to back it up with a good performance against Argentina tomorrow night at 8.05pm (NZT).
“Those who are well, will have to step it up a notch tonight, and that will mean the team will be pretty tired tomorrow,” says McLeod.