A great time for the future of the Hockeyroos: Commens19 June 2012
The Australian Olympic Committee has today named a team of 16 women to compete at the London Olympic Games. Tipped to be one of the youngest teams to take to the blue pitch, the average age of the team sits at 25.
“It is a great time for the future of the Hockeyroos,” head coach Adam Commens said.
“There was a lot of competition within the group of 27 across the attack, midfield and defence and it was a difficult process to pick the final squad, but I am very happy with the team we selected.
“We still have a lot of improvements and a lot of growth in us, but I am confident the 16 girls chosen for the London Olympics are the best which augurs well for the future.”
Athens 2004 goalkeeper Toni Cronk returns to the team and six Beijing Olympians form the nucleus of the squad in Teneal Attard, Casey Eastham, Kobie McGurk, Hope Munro, Megan Rivers and captain, Madonna Blyth.
“It is a really exciting time for the whole group, particularly the nine girls who are heading to their first Olympics” Blyth said.
Unlike the 2008 Beijing campaign where Australia entered as one of the favourites and finished fifth, the Hockeyroos have world number seven next to their name heading into London.
“The underdog tag suits any Aussie team and we’ll gladly take that mantle,” Blyth said.
“I think in terms of all the other international teams we are probably falling under the radar a little bit. They’re ahead of us on paper but for us it’s about going out there and playing at our best.
“We might be ranked number seven but a medal is the goal and when we are at our best there’s a chance,” Blyth said.
Commens echoed his skipper’s sentiments following an impressive campaign against some of the top nations at the London Cup last week.
“After seeing our form at the London Cup we are much better to challenge for medals. I was very pleased with how we went against one of our major competitors, Germany, in the semi-final.” Commens said of the 3-2 thriller.
Australia faces three higher-ranked teams in Pool B of the Olympic draw - Argentina (No.2), Germany (No.3) and New Zealand (No.6). But Commens was careful not to discount number 12 ranked South Africa either who drew with world number one the Netherlands at the London Cup.
“Our goal is to make it into the semis and from there the podium is realistic. Once there we can be aiming for gold, but we are under no illusions as to how difficult it will be to get through the pool. It really is ‘the pool of death’.
“All of the teams ranked above us will be imagining they can beat us. For us to reach the semi-final will be a great achievement.”
The rise of talented 20-year-olds Anna Flanagan and Georgia Nansawen has been an asset to the Hockeyroos in the last two years. Their respective defensive and striking abilities combined with the toughness of Jodie Schulz will be key to this new-look Olympic outfit.
The youngest player heading to London is 19-year-old striker Emily Smith from the Southern Tablelands town of Crookwell, home to 2000 people and one thrilled Olympian.
“It’s very exciting. I didn’t think in a million years I’d be going to the London Olympics!” she said.
Smith was scouted as a talented junior. She relocated to Sydney and then on to Perth in early 2011 to play alongside the girls she idolised.
“I still have photos of some of them up in my room so it was kind of awkward when I first met them,” Smith laughed.
“I’ve been playing since I was five and I always wanted to play for Australia, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d go to the Olympics!” she said.
The Hockeyroos will spend one more month in Australia before heading to London on 15 July and contesting three practice matches on London’s iconic blue Olympic pitch.