Hockey: Black Sticks men's veterans on cusp of major milestones as last chance at Paris Olympics qualifiers awaits

Next week, the Black Sticks men will hope to secure one of the final few spots at the Paris Olympics, as the last qualifying tournament gets underway in Oman.  

Regardless of the result, outstanding achievements will be made when Blair Tarrant and Hugo Inglis play their 250th game for the Black Sticks, while their best mate Kane Russell plays his 200th.  

But they've been hitting the ball together for a lot longer than just a couple hundred games.  

Practicing on the pitch is second nature for the three mates from the south, the Dunedin-born Black Sticks trio have been doing it since they were 10 years old.   

"We were at different schools," Inglis told Newshub. "The school teams would basically be like the key players [play] against each other.  

"You'd try to dribble the whole field. That's what I'd try to do anyway."   

Tarrant, Inglis and Russell's long careers have often intertwined, and that wasn't always easy.  

"Taz and Rossy got called up to the Under-16 New Zealand team," added Inglis. "I got a call telling me that I didn't make it. I was gutted.   

"It's quite funny, because I've got the same memory from the year before," interjected Tarrant.  

Eventually, in 2012, they found themselves united in the Black Sticks. And the rest as they say, is history. 

"You form a connection on the field, that you don't have with other players," said Russell. "Hugo's up front, he knows what Blair and myself are going to look for."  

A couple of hundred games later, they're now set for major milestones. Russell's poised to wear the black shirt for the 200th time, while Inglis and Tarrant are on the cusp of game No.250.  

But there's more than just milestones on the horizon. They have one more chance to qualify the Black Sticks for the Paris Olympics.   

They had and missed the opportunity at August's Oceania Cup after being beaten by the Kookaburras.   

"I just remembered how much I dislike a lot of the Australian players after that series," said Inglis.  

"We need to start better," added Tarrant. "We won the second game, but we could have won the first game as well if we turned up and put our best foot forward."  

But recent opportunities to play some friendlies games have them feeling confident for what's ahead.  

"I think that winning an Olympic medal, and see this team go well for the next 10 years would be a massive highlight," said Tarrant.  

In three careers that have already had many highlights, notwithstanding playing hockey among mates.