New Zealand athletes will be taking part in an exciting, innovative athletics series in Melbourne over the next week. Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne is the brainchild of Athletics Australia in a bold attempt to create a new format to attract more fans to the sport.

The world’s best ever sprinter, Usain Bolt has been attracted to front the event and has selected an invitation team to compete against five other teams from Australia, New Zealand, England, China and Japan.

Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne gets under way this weekend at Lakeside Stadium in the Australian sporting capital and features three rounds of innovative team athletics on Saturday 4, Thursday 9 and Saturday 11 February.

Sky Television will be showing Nitro Athletics live with the first day’s competition on Sky Sport 2 at 9:00pm on Saturday.

The 24-strong Kiwi team (12 men and 12 women) features a mix of current and former New Zealand champions, World University and World U20 representatives, along with some exciting junior athletes.

Joseph Millar and Zoe Hobbs will lead the sprinters with Matthew Wyatt, Michael Cochrane, Brooke Somerfield and Olivia Eaton in support while multiple NZ champion Laura Nagel, along with Esther Keown and Tim Cornish will cover the distance events.

Middle distance runners Katherine Marshall, Ellen Schaef, Ben Musson and Tom Moulai will be up against some very strong international competition in their races.

Long Jumpers Matthew Wyatt, Hamish Gill and Kelsey Berryman will be flying through the air in the long jump and hurdlers McKenzie Keenan and Jack Henry will also be aiming for good results.

Hannah Philpot and Nick Southgate will lead the charge in the pole vault while in the only throwing event of the series, Tori Peeters and Hayden Hall will be firing their javelins as far as they can, and at targets.

The team includes two Para-Athletes with Rio Paralympics gold medallist Anna Grimaldi and Will O’Neill competing in the 100m events.

Team selection has been an interesting exercise as the format is different to that usually seen at an athletics meeting. The three-minute distance challenge, mixed distance and gender sprint relays, javelin with an accuracy bonus, races over the non-standard distances of 60m, 150m, 300m, elimination races, hurdle relays along with a limitation on team size means that some athletes will be competing in events they are less familiar with.

The Kiwi team is without the athletes who featured for New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Olympics as not all events are included in the Nitro programme and competition plans for some athletics working towards the World Championships in London later in 2017 do not include competing this early in the year.

The New Zealand team for Coles Nitro Athletics:

Men: Matthew Wyatt (captain), Ben Musson, Hamish Gill, Hayden Hall, Jack Henry, Joseph Millar, Michael Cochrane, Nick Southgate, Tim Cornish, Tom Moulai, Will O’Neill.

Women: Anna Grimaldi, Brooke Somerfield, Ellen Schaef, Esther Keown, Hannah Philpot, Katherine Marshall, Kelsey Berryman, Laura Nagel, Mackenzie Keenan, Olivia Eaton, Tori Peeters, Zoe Hobbs.