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Who is Jared Panchia? New Zealand Striker Eyeing World Cup Win

When the New Zealand national squad touched down in India for the 2018 World Cup, the terminal pulsed with energy. This, the Black Sticks all agreed, is their time.

After finishing second in the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, the team is eyeing the top spot at the sport’s culminating four-year event.

Among the returning squad members is young striker Jared Panchia, and the buzz around the sport is that he’s the one to watch this year.

Pictured: Panchia, striker for New Zealand's national team, makes a play for the ball in a recent match against Canada using the STX Stallion HPR.

Panchia made his first World Cup appearance back in 2014 in the Netherlands, one of the youngest players selected to represent his country on the World Cup stage. Now, he’s back – still young, but seasoned and matured – with realistic expectations of the competition.

We sat down with Panchia to talk about his journey to the World Cup, his family’s hockey legacy, and who he sees as New Zealand’s biggest competition at the World Cup:

You’re here in India, about to play in your second World Cup at age 25. Let’s go back to the beginning: how did you get your start in the sport?

Hockey has always been a big part of my family. Both of my parents played, and so naturally they introduced me to it and got me playing for their club. My two brothers and younger sister also play. I started in it because of my family, but l think getting to play on teams with my mates and having some success in the sport is what kept me playing. As well as the speed and skill involved in the game — keeps it exciting and challenging.

You've had some pretty incredible success at a young age. What are some of the defining moments that pushed you to you where you are today?

I’ve been really lucky to have some excellent coaches and had the opportunity to play on some very good teams when I was young. Having a strong community of people around you is so important — family and friends who support you, coaches who inspire and teach you, and teammates who push you.

As far as a specific event, I think winning national age group tournaments and then winning the National Hockey League when I was young were all defining moments for me. That’s when things started to change. People started recognising me and more opportunities built from there.

You mentioned your siblings, and your older brother Arun is here as well. It's not too often siblings get the opportunity to play professionally together, especially at the highest level of the sport. What’s that like?

It’s awesome to be able to play alongside my brother at this level. He’s been a big part of my journey. Having someone literally down the hall to follow and get advice from my whole career has been extremely helpful. I know our family is really proud and excited to watch us together, and at the end of the day, making them proud means the most.

Is there pressure that comes with putting on those national team colours?

It’s an honour to represent my country. It was a dream of mine from a young age, so whenever I get the opportunity to put on the jersey, I am extremely proud and grateful. The World Cup is obviously one of the pinnacle events in our sport, right up there with the Olympics. Having 16 of the best teams in the world competing definitely makes it a high-stakes event. Obviously, there’s pressure associated with that. But I think more than the pressure, everyone who’s here recognises that it’s a really special event and huge for the sport to have a tournament of this level.

In 2014, you were one of the youngest players on the World Cup roster. What did you take away from The Hague that helped you prepare this time around?

The World Cup in The Hague was an awesome tournament with a massive stadium and a huge, supportive crowd. It’s something I’ll never forget. 

I learnt a lot from that first experience. The biggest lesson was the rise in competition level compared to any other international game. It felt like two levels up from any other international game I had played. Teams were also a lot more organised tactically than a normal international game. Not to say I didn’t feel prepared going into it the first time, but having a better understanding of the level of skill and competition we’re up against is helpful this time around.

What’s your training regimen been like leading up to the tournament?

We usually training early in the morning, then have meetings and food, followed by another training or gym session. We’re lucky enough to have an excellent support team around us with Hockey New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand, which give us access to world-class strength and conditioning trainers, psychologists and nutritionists.

One part of my game I’ve been really focused on improving is my circle work and elimination skills. And as a team, we’ve been working hard on our penalty corner attack and defence.

Who do you see as your biggest competition in this tournament?

There are a number of very good teams here. I think Holland, Belgium and Australia will all be very good, as well as India. For me, I just try to focus on one game at a time, so right now, I’m focused on the teams in our pool and then I’ll move on from there as the competition builds.

What do you see as your team's strongest asset?

We have a really solid team going into this World Cup. I think our defence and ability to counterattack are two of our strongest assets.

Who has been your strongest mentor along this journey? What have you learned from them?

I have had several amazing mentors who’ve helped me a lot along the way. They have all come at really critical times when I needed them the most.

Definitely the people who have helped me the most are my family. Mum and Dad sacrificed a lot and always supported me and gave me the best environment and opportunities to succeed. Their support and passion, as well as the hockey advice they’ve given me, have all had a huge impact. They still try to watch every game I play and get to most tournaments when I’m away, which is amazing.  

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