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Learning from the best . . . Black Stick Kelsey Smith (far left) with the North Otago under 13 boys hockey team. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Young North Otago hockey players were treated to a special guest at their trainings last week.

Black Stick Kelsey Smith, who has played in Olympic and Commonwealth Games, is recovering from an injury and was coaxed down to the region by her former coach, and current co-owner of the Moeraki Hotel, Craig Brett.

The midfielder spent Thursday and Friday last week helping at sessions for the North Otago representative sides, as well as speaking at the St Kevin’s College Celebration of Sport evening.

Smith, who is from Nelson but lives in Auckland, was impressed with the setup of the hockey turf in Oamaru.

“It’s good to get out of the Auckland bubble,” she said.

“Country kids have that something extra; they are nuggety and tough as hell.”

During the sessions, she wanted to expand the children’s knowledge.

“You just have to learn the basics, and watch the ball; expect it at all times.”

Smith (25) was first selected for the Black Sticks in 2015 and said her highlight since then was winning a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

As hockey is not funded to the same level as other sports in New Zealand, Smith balances hockey with a part-time job in print design and is also studying for a degree in business management.

North Otago Hockey Association member Briget McAtamney was doubling as Smith’s chauffeur for the trip.

“The kids have been excited for her to come.”

Playing numbers for hockey in North Otago were strong, she said.

“We have seen an increase since the hockey in schools programme.”