Author: Nic Kerber
The Kookaburras have sent an early statement in their quest to qualify for Tokyo 2020 with a clinical 4-0 win against New Zealand in their opening match of the Oceania Cup at the new hockey facility in Rockhampton.
Tom Craig, Tim Brand, Blake Govers and Flynn Ogilvie were all on target as the Kookaburras flexed their muscle to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series with a spot at next year’s Olympics on the line.
In the Kookaburras’ most important series of the year, the home side were on from the opening whistle.
Young livewire Jacob Anderson won an early penalty corner, the only one of the first half, which co-captain Aran Zalewski sent just wide of the target with his drag flick.
But the Kookaburras did not have to wait long to go in front as Craig blasted a reverse stick past Richard Joyce in the Black Sticks goal.
The Kookaburras’ lead was doubled seven minutes later when Brand stuck out a stick to get a cheeky deflection from a lovely back stick shot from Zalewski.
The high tempo, high press play from the Kookaburras continued in the second quarter, regularly pegging the Black Sticks back inside their own half.
New Zealand created a half chance but Andrew Charter in the Kookaburras goal was largely untroubled going into half time.
Looking to ram home their advantage, Govers produced a clinical finish from the penalty corner to make it three.
The striker tried to repeat the dose minutes later but this time Joyce managed to pad it away.
Kookaburras midfielder Daniel Beale forced the Black Sticks keeper into a fine save up high before a final goal sealed the comprehensive result.
Tom Wickham did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the circle, feeding Corey Weyer whose semi blocked shot rose high and Ogilvie was on hand to tap it home from within a metre.
The Kookaburras were forced to defend a couple of late New Zealand penalty corners to ensure the shut out on what was another successful night for Australia’s men’s hockey team.
“It’s a good start to the series. To score two goals in the first quarter was a dream start for us,” said Head Coach Colin Batch.
“It took us a while to get the third one, New Zealand fought hard and we know there is still a lot of hockey in front of us to secure the series.”
“We talked about possessing the ball, particularly in the heat, and I think it worked out for us this time. It doesn’t always work out but on this occasion it did.”
Despite the one sided result, Batch said there would be no letting up or sign of complacency come the second match on Saturday.
“It’s not an overconfidence but we have a good belief in what we can do out there, so we’re heading into game two with a lot of confidence and hopefully we can have another victory,” said Batch.
“We pride ourselves on a good performance no matter what, we pride ourselves on our performance and Saturday will be the same.”
First job done. The challenge now for the Kookaburras will to bring more of the same as they try to wrap up the series on Saturday and book their spot at Tokyo 2020.
Kookaburras 4 (Craig 5’, Brand 12’, Govers 36’, Ogilvie 40’)
New Zealand 0
Kalka Shades Hockey Fields, Rockhampton