Hockey: Mark Hager departs Black Sticks to coach Great Britain

Women's Black Sticks coach Mark Hager has resigned as coach of the national side to take up a role as head coach of the Great Britain and England women's teams.

Hager, who has led the Black Sticks through their most successful period during his 10 years at the helm, will start his new role immediately.

Newshub understands Hager twice turned down the Great Britain role, most recently after the Commonwealth Games, but he's finally decided to accept the job. 

New Zealand assistant coach Sean Dancer will become acting head coach as the team prepares for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Pro League which starts against the Netherlands on January 27 in Auckland. 

Hager's first game in charge of Great Britain will be against the Black Sticks on February 8 in Christchurch.

"I've been fortunate to coach the Black Sticks for a decade and even more fortunate to have two world-class players in Kayla Sharland and Stacey Michelsen as my captains to help us achieve goals that were firsts for this team," said Hager.

"But given its profile as one of the pinnacle coaching roles in world hockey I have come to realise it is in my best interests and those of the Black Sticks to accept this opportunity, and for someone else to lead this talented group of athletes through to Tokyo.

"Ultimately, the opportunity to coach England/Great Britain is one that excites me with the quality of the teams, the wealth of competition on their doorstep in Europe and the resources available."

Hager had many successes as coach of New Zealand, taking them as high as fourth in the world rankings, winning gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and finishing fourth at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 - the team's best-ever finishes at Olympic Games.

But the last six months has been filled with controversy after the 54-year-old accidentally sent an email to the entire team, naming and shaming individual players for their performance and effort, after finishing 11th at the women's World Cup.

Last month RNZ reported both Hager and players had been informed the long-serving coach would be relieved of his position after a review into the national team culture.

Hockey New Zealand denied those claims, insisting the independent review is still being conducted and "no decision will be made, until the final review is complete". 

The review was launched in September, after allegations of a negative team environment emerged.

The findings from the review were expected to be released in November, but now won't be announced until the end of this month.

Hockey New Zealand Acting Board Chair Shane Collins emphasised that Hager was leaving on his own terms.  

"We are extremely disappointed to lose one of the world's top coaches. Mark and his coaching staff have continued to have the support of the Board and management and we wish him well in his next endeavour. His legacy will take some matching."

Hager was contracted through to the 2020 Olympics inTokyo.