The Kookaburras face a tough first up away FIH Pro League assignment when they take on India in two pivotal matches in Bhubaneshwar, starting tonight local time (12.30am AEDT Saturday 22 February).
It has been three weeks since the Kookaburras were last in action following a 5-1 win over Great Britain on 2 February in Sydney.
Now coming into the two matches against India, Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch is looking for his charges to take another step forward as the squad continues to build towards being at their peak for Tokyo 2020.
“While in the short term we want to improve this weekend and gain some momentum after playing well against Great Britain, it’s still about taking care of the longer preparation of the Olympics,” said Batch.
“Coming into these games, we feel we’re better prepared than we were for the matches in Sydney, so we’re expecting a good performance here.”
The Kookaburras have India in their group for July’s Tokyo Olympics, adding a further element of fascination about how both teams go about these two Pro League matches and whether they decide to show their full hand.
“I think the interesting thing with the Pro League is that everyone sees each other,” said Batch.
“We’re not sure how teams will play in Tokyo. There is flexibility in tactics and things like that, and I think the trick is to keep observing and changing your way of playing if you need to, but not too much. It’s important to get the basics right and at a high quality.”
With teams only permitted to name 18 players for each match, midfielder Matt Swann and forward Tim Brand are the ones to be left out of the opening encounter. Nathan Ephraums and Kurt Lovett have both been named to make their second international appearances, Ephraums having been a late inclusion to the travelling party due to a minor injury complaint to Tom Craig.
Batch says the team has settled in well having arrived in Bhubaneshwar last Saturday.
“There is a lot to enjoy about India and it’s always really positive when we come here,” said Batch.
“The guys are doing well and we have been getting through what we need to from a training point of view.”
After earning five points out of six against the Netherlands and then scoring a stunning win over World Champions Belgium in their opening two Pro League weekends, India, who are coached by former Kookaburra Graham Reid, find themselves third on the ladder and up to fourth in the world rankings.
The Kookaburras have lost just once in their past 14 encounters against India but with what the home side has shown in the Pro League so far, coupled with a parochial home crowd behind them, Batch knows it poses an exciting challenge.
“I think they have improved quite a bit in the last 12 months,” said Batch.
“We played some matches against them in Perth last year and they have developed along nicely.”
“They seem to have a lot of belief in their team and have had some good results. They are a team we will face at the Olympics so they should be really competitive matches this weekend.”
With no other teams featuring in the FIH Pro League this weekend and six points on offer (teams get three points for a win), the Kookaburras can climb to second on the Pro League standings with two victories.
Kookaburras v India – FIH Pro League 2020 Match Details
Match 1 – Friday 21 February 2020
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Start Time: 7:00pm local (12:30am AEDT Saturday 22 February)
Match 2 – Saturday 22 February 2020
Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar
Start Time: 7:00pm local (12:30am AEDT Sunday 23 February)
Kookaburras v India – Overall Record
Played 128; Won 84, Drawn 21, Lost 23
Kookaburras 20-player team v India – FIH Pro League (21/22 February 2020)
|Name (Number)||Date of Birth||Hometown, State||Caps (Goals)|
|Jacob Anderson (9)||22/03/1997||Mackay, QLD||21 (8)|
|Daniel Beale (23)||12/02/1993||Brisbane, QLD||173 (28)|
|Josh Beltz (10)||24/04/1995||Hobart, TAS||39 (3)|
|Tim Brand (29)||29/11/1998||Chatswood, NSW||38 (16)|
|Andrew Charter (gk) (30)||30/03/1987||Canberra, ACT||179 (0)|
|Matthew Dawson (6)||7/04/1994||Killarney Vale, NSW||136 (12)|
|Nathan Ephraums||9/06/1999||Keysborough, VIC||1 (0)|
|Jake Harvie (4)||5/03/1998||Dardanup, WA||66 (3)|
|Jeremy Hayward (32)||3/03/1993||Darwin, NT||153 (64)|
|Tim Howard (16)||23/06/1996||Wakerley, QLD||58 (1)|
|Tyler Lovell (gk) (24)||23/05/1987||Perth, WA||143 (0)|
|Kurt Lovett (18)||15/01/1997||Parkes, NSW||1 (0)|
|Trent Mitton (25)||26/11/1990||Perth, WA||170 (77)|
|Eddie Ockenden (11)||3/04/1987||Hobart, TAS||362 (71)|
|Lachlan Sharp (1)||2/07/1997||Lithgow, NSW||46 (10)|
|Corey Weyer (3)||28/03/1996||Biggera Waters, QLD||40 (3)|
|Jacob Whetton (12)||16/06/1991||Brisbane, QLD||201 (64)|
|Tom Wickham (5)||26/05/1990||Morgan, SA||51 (21)|
|Dylan Wotherspoon (26)||9/04/1993||Murwillumbah, NSW||89 (31)|
|Aran Zalewski (17)||21/03/1991||Margaret River, WA||187 (24)|
Kookaburras – FIH Pro League 2020 Results
Saturday 25 January
Kookaburras 2 (Hayward 49’, Craig 51’)
Belgium 2 (Briels 18’, Denayer 59’)
Belgium wins 4-2 on penalties
Sunday 26 January
Kookaburras 2 (Sharp 42’, Hayward 60’)
Belgium 4 (Hendrickx 13’/25’, Plennevaux 56’, Stockbroekx 58’)
Saturday 1 February
Kookaburras 4 (Ockenden 19’, Wickham 29’, Zalewski 56’, Mitton 59’)
Great Britain 4 (Jackson 20’, Wallace 31’, Shipperley 44’, Ansell 45’)
Kookaburras win 3-1 on penalties
Sunday 2 February
Kookaburras 5 (Wotherspoon 14’, Sharp 19’, Craig 29’, Brand 45’, Mitton 55’)
Great Britain 1 (Taylor 18’)
Click here for a full list of the Kookaburras FIH Pro League 2020 fixtures.