Hockey: Our golden hockey Aussies

The picture says it all; the Hockeyroos are jubilant as they head into the final. (Pic: The Fans of Hockey)
The picture says it all; the Hockeyroos are jubilant as they head into the final. (Pic: The Fans of Hockey)

I have always been an interested spectator in every sport, but recently, my passion and knowledge of hockey (in this case, field hockey) has grown rapidly.

Both the Hockeyroos (Australian women) and Kookaburras (Australian men) are going for the gold medals respectively, this weekend, in the 2014 Rabobank Hockey World Cup, over in the Netherlands.

Australia’s hockey teams have been in the top echelon of world hockey for the past 15 or so years, it is hard to argue against them as two of our most successful teams.

In 2000, the likes of Alyson Annan, Nikki Hudson and Jenny Morris, to name a few, were blitzing everyone in the world.  The Hockeyroos held the number one spot for the better part of two decades.

I was only 7 at the time, but fondly remember the gold medal match at the Sydney Olympics.  There are very few moments that could top that win for the Hockeyroos that year.

While the years following Sydney did not bring the same results, the Hockeyroos never fell below world number six.  Gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne (2006) and Delhi (2010) was where we began to see some of the experienced core that is leading the team now.

Tonight, the girls play the number one ranked Netherlands, who are streets ahead on ranking points.

Aussie skipper Madonna Blyth has been instrumental in the tight situations; against USA in the semi-final, Blyth was everywhere, in the contests, stoppages and goal opportunities.  22 year-old Kellie White scored both the first goal of the game against the States, as well as the first of the shoot-out.

Every single player in the Hockeyroos squad has contributed to the wins.  Anna Flanagan leads all-comers in terms of goals scored, Casey Eastham and Jayde Taylor have shown their experience through the middle; and who can forget our phenomenal goalkeeper, Rachael Lynch.

Lynch’s courage to attack the ball in the shoot-out was what allowed Australia to advance to the final; her work will be cut out for her tonight against the powerful Dutch.  Having missed out at the 2010 World Cup, the motivation levels will be high.

Then there’s the Kookaburras, who, ironically, play the Netherlands in the men’s final on Sunday night.

They are the defending World Cup champions, and have won medals at the last six Olympic Games, including gold in Athens.  As such, they have been highly regarded, like the Hockeyroos, in the top echelons of Australian sport.

Ranked third, the Netherlands, like the Aussies, did not drop a single match on the road to the final, except a 1-1 draw with New Zealand.

The Kookaburras list reels off some impressive names: Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles, Chris Ciriello, Tim Deavin.  All of these players have been through the peak of success, especially Dwyer and skipper Knowles.

When Australia took on India in their last pool game, Knowles was unfortunately stretchered off the field with an innocuous neck injury.  It seemed to lift the Aussies, who defeated India 4-0.

One factor going for the Kookaburras is their ability to put goals on the board early; it took only a few minutes against India. The aura surrounding the Australians continues to the off-field team as well; Ric Charlesworth’s name is etched in hockey history, having coached the Hockeyroos for seven years.

Neither side, in both matches, is going to give an inch in the final.  The Hockeyroos will no doubt have to get a good start to fight the Dutch, while the Kookaburras must do the same.  However, the men have shown just how ruthless they are when it comes to scoring goals.

Coverage is tonight (women’s) and tomorrow (men’s), ABC 2 @ 11.15pm.


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