Inspired by Eddie Ockenden’s record breaking milestone, the Kookaburras have rinsed the current Olympic Champions Argentina 5-1 in Perth to move into second position on the FIH Pro League table.
In a history-breaking night for Australian hockey, Ockenden led his side onto the field in his 366th international appearance, passing legend Jamie Dwyer’s mark of 365 games.
“Having the whole squad and my family here was special, including my partner Louie, but also seeing a video before the game with lots of ex-teammates and old Kookas who made it here has made it more special and it was really nice to feel the love from all of the boys,” said Ockenden post match.
“It’s nice to win in these sort of games, but importantly it was really nice to have a four quarter performance. We played a lot better, we were a lot more consistent and ran the game out which was good to see.”
The 32-year-old Tasmanian had a typically influential night, having a hand in three goals and almost popping up to score at the death to demonstrate there’s plenty still left in the tank.
The night was also best remembered for Victorian defender Josh Simmonds’ maiden international goal, while Blake Govers returned from a long term injury layoff with a renewed hunger that led to a magnificent brace.
“It was good to be back with the boys and to play in front of a home crowd for my first game of the year,” said Govers.
“It was great to celebrate with captain Eddie (Ockenden) today and his 366 games for Australia, which is more than a calendar year of games, is unbelievable for your country.”
“His enthusiasm is just amazing, and his team first mentality has really shown today. We got up for him today and got the win which was good.”
The match was played at breakneck speed for the majority, with Trent Mitton having an early goal ruled out on review before Simmonds struck from a 10th minute penalty corner.
Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter was called upon to make a vital save in the shadows of quarter time, before the home side took control of the match.
Govers was at the heart of the Kookaburras success, burying a thunderbolt flick above a hapless Argentinian goalkeeper before utilising his instinctiveness to react first in the attacking circle and knock home another seconds before half-time.
Charter was again on hand to snuff out the danger from Tomas Domene’s shot before Tom Wickham deflected home to make it 4-0.
Hometown boy Trent Mitton then continued his uncanny knack of scoring in the final quarter this Pro League season, deflecting home Dylan Wotherspoon’s pass.
Los Leones struck a late consolation goal through Jose Tolini, which moved him clear on top of the Pro League scoring chart, but it was not going to dent a memorable night for Ockenden and the Kookaburras.
Kookaburras 5 (Simmonds 10’, Govers 24’/30, Wickham 44’, Mitton 49’)
Argentina 1 (Tolini 57’)
@ Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University
Kookaburras: 3.Corey Weyer, 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Tom Wickham, 6.Matthew Dawson, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 11.Eddie Ockenden (c), 13.Blake Govers, 15.Josh Simmonds, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski, 20.Matthew Swann, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Daniel Beale, 25.Trent Mitton, 26.Dylan Wotherspoon, 30.Andrew Charter (gk)
Unused Substitutes: 21.Jack Welch, 24.Tyler Lovell (gk)
Argentina: 1.Juan Vivaldi (gk), 4.Juan Catan, 5.Pedro Ibarra (c), 7.Nicolas Keenan, 9.Maico Casella, 12.Lucas Vila, 13.Jose Tolini, 15.Tomas Domene, 16.Ignacio Ortiz, 17.Juan Lopez, 18.Federico Monja, 19.Tomas Bettaglio, 23.Lucas Martinez, 24.Nicolas Cicileo, 28.Federico Fernandez, 30.Augustin Bugallo, 32.Martin Ferreiro
Unused Substitute: 3.Emiliano Bosso (gk)