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NZ Celebrates Centenary Year in Style (2/21/2008)
I wanted to have the list of international hockey players of New Zealand. When I queried about it with the 1976 Olympics hockey gold medallist Ramesh Patel, now the chief executive of the New Zealand Hockey Federation, at Perth during the Women's World Cup, he sprang me a surprise.

"We have recently brought out a publication and this might probably serve your purpose", he said. A couple days later, he informed me that the book had already been posted to my address in India.

The publication reached my home even before I returned from Perth. It's a 278-page "Seasons of Honour: A centenary History of New Zealand Hockey 1902-2002". It's a treasure trove of information on the New Zealand hockey, a well-thought out concept too. A lot of hard work seemed to have gone into the making the content.

Coming through the pen of Geoff Watson with adequate support from former Wellington and New Zealand Universities teams' captain Wilf Haskell, the book painstakingly chronicles the illustrious hockey journey the Kiwis land had courted in the last one hundred years.

Simplistic in approach, cautious in chronicling and meticulous in giving the vintage information, the beautifully laid-out book gives the perspective glimpses into the whole spectrum of the New Zealand hockey, which seems to be as exciting and entertaining as their hockey teams. The characteristic feature of the book lies in its straightforward way of telling the truth in the possibly the best simplistic way.

New Zealand is one of those countries where both men and women versions of the game progressed hand in hand. In fact their women played first international hockey -- against visiting England -- about seven years before their male counterpart could manage their own. So also they figured in a tournament before their men could.

It's all the more pleasure to see quite a few rare photos dating back to early 19th century; the women's outfit, long crooked sticks, good crowd, all in black white. The stick had transformed, the dress code had changed but the spirit is all pervading and the course it took to obtain these changes are absolutely thrilling. I admire the efforts.

That the book could manage to unearth some of the facts that were hitherto unknown or unexplored is stating the obvious. I have, for instance, always wondered why did the Indians choose to visit far off New Zealand for their first ever overseas tour in 1926 when they had so many opportunities next door. The book gives you the answer. The hosts agreed to meet the return fare and the motivator had been an army officer who first served in New Zealand before moving to India. Not only that. The Indians and the Kiwis forged a symphony of sorts between themselves as they fought the World War One together. And, hold your breath, the New Zealand Hockey Federation alone made a profit of $400 with the Indians visit. The Indians too brought home a heft pursue. No surprise as even the advocates of `Whites Only Immigration' too came in troves, witnessed all the matches and did not lag behind in singing paeans for the superlative Indian game. The author could even manage to give you the crowd figures. Geoff Watson must have sweat a lot to gather even the minutest of the details in this post-doctoral fellowship thesis.

The book has an artistic cover showing the moment of the only goal being scored in the 1976 Olympics final. On the back cover one finds, who else than, the irresistible Mandy Smith. A thoughtful design indeed.

The book has twelve chapters, each of the first eleven chapters focussing activities and achievements of a decade that had gone by. Four appendices follow them, dwelling on Schools, Universities, NZ Indian Sports Association and National Maori Hockey tournament. They also make a good reading.

Seasons of honour is a fitting tribute to those players and administrators who made the kiwi hockey a name to reckon with, not for any monetary consideration but for the country's honour and prestige. Seasons of honour therefore is a must read for every sports lover. It's worth a buy.

I sincerely appreciate the effort of the NZHF and the authors for bringing out this wonderful volume. There cannot be a better way of perpetuating the milestone in history than by preserving the past and present for the benefit of the posterity.

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