Hockey: Black Sticks coach Mark Hager stepping aside for tri-series

Fresh from winning their first major title at the Commonwealth Games, Black Sticks coach Mark Hager is stepping aside.

The NZ women's hockey side begin preparations for the world cup this weekend when they take on Australia and Japan in a tri-series, and they'll do it with a new person in charge.

Well, sort of.

Hager has opted to hand the reins to assistant coach Sean Dancer this week, deciding he'll watch his team from the sidelines in Cromwell.

"We just want to have a look at things from a different point of view and it allows [Hager] to sit in the stands and look at a few things we might need to adjust or change heading into the world cup," Dancer told Newshub.

The decision to change a winning formula heading into a major tournament is a surprise, but the move's been welcomed by players

"It's good for [Hager] to step back and see it from a different angle…it will be great for his learning moving forward," said veteran Anita McLaren.

It could be a ploy to give the Black Sticks an edge over two of their Pool D rivals at the world cup, or perhaps just a chance for the players to hear a different voice after nine years of Hager.

"They're definitely different, but [Dancer] he's a great coach so we just do what he tells us."

But the change isn't down to succession-planning, despite Dancer's ambitions to eventually ascend to the head coaching role.

"I'm happy being an assistant at the moment," added Dancer.

Regardless of who's in charge, the focus for the Black Sticks remains firmly on building on their Commonwealth Games success.