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Aussies win Oceania Cup

4 November 2013

HOCKEY:HOCKEY: Australia's male and female hockey teams have both won the Oceania Cup with tough finals victories over New Zealand. 

Women take first Oceania Cup since 2005

The Hockeyroos won the Oceania Cup in dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon with a sudden death shoot-out victory over trans-Tasman rivals and world number three side New Zealand after the final finished 2-2.

It was an outstanding performance by the Hockeyroos women, many of whom had battled through sickness to play and earn Australia a first Oceania Cup title since 2005.

Captain Madonna Blyth led by example, scoring the crucial equaliser for 2-2 with just eight minutes remaining and keeping her cool to score twice in the shoot-out. Her fellow Queenslander Jordyn Holzberger had given the Hockeryoos an early lead but goals either side of half time from New Zealand’s Sophie Cocks and Kayla Sharland put the Kiwis in the box seats before Blyth struck.

The final was Head Coach Adam Commens’ 100th game in charge of the Hockeyroos and he said afterwards, “It was a very hard fought win and I’m really pleased that the girls were able to come from behind and win in the shoot-out. We’ve been training for these shoot-outs as part of our program for a long time now and each of the girls has their own strategy, which they executed well. 

“These results don’t come by chance or luck. They come through excellent preparation and quality execution of the game plan. It’s our fourth tournament final since last year’s Olympics and the girls are starting to feel what it’s like to handle the pressure and perform to a game plan.” 

Paying tribute to those athletes that played through the pain barrier, Commens added, “I was pleased with our ability to run the game out considered we’ve had so much illness this week. Jodie Schulz was incredibly ill throughout the game but played the full rotation [of interchanges]. Afterwards, she could barely stand up; it was a great effort by her. Mathilda Carmichael couldn’t take part so we played with one less player today. I thought the girls showed real character and mental strength.”

Joining her coach in reaching the magic 100 match mark was World Young Player of the Year Anna Flanagan, who was presented with flowers before the action commenced. 

The match was played a frenetic pace with both sides creating opportunities before Jordyn Holzberger opened the scoring in the fifth minute. The young Queenslander was in the right place to capitalise on a quick break down the left hand side to knock home from close range and give the Hockeyroos a 1-0 lead. 

Following the goal, the Hockeyroos found themselves under a period of sustained pressure. Sophie Cocks struck New Zealand’s equaliser midway through the half, converting inside the far post after build up play through the right of the Australian circle. And the Hockeyroos might have found themselves behind moments later but for a combination of goalkeeper Rachael Lynch’s good work and a wayward Kiwi shot. 

Having soaked up plenty of pressure towards the end of the first period, the Hockeyroos enjoyed a strong start to the second half as they pressed New Zealand deep inside their own territory. Madonna Blyth was central to much of the Hockeyroos’ best work but it was against the run of play that New Zealand took the lead through Kayla Sharland at a penalty corner with 15 minutes remaining. And but for the intervention of Lynch it might have been worse a minute later – the Victorian goalkeeper reacting well to Gemma Flynn’s break through the middle. 

The Hockeyroos refused to be beaten though and the pressure paid off with the match entering its final throws. Picking up a loose ball inside the New Zealand circle, Blyth opened her body to fire a ripping shot inside the far post to make it 2-2 and force the shoot-out. 

After five attempts each in the shoot-out there was still nothing to separate the sides. Blyth, Kellie White and Claire Messent all converted for the Hockeyroos with Messent’s goal of particular importance, being the strike that forced sudden death. White put the Australians a goal up in sudden death and it was left to goalkeeper Rachael Lynch to spark the celebrations as she plucked the ball off the stick of Samantha Charlton to win the contest for the Hockeyroos. 
Speaking about the shoot-out, Captain Madonna Blyth said afterwards, “It’s not a nice way to win but we put a lot of hard work into these [practicing for shoot-outs]. Our goalkeeper is brilliant.

“I’m sure it was a cracking game to watch from the sidelines with both teams displaying positive attacking hockey. The Kiwi pace is a danger point but we stuck to our structure. We wanted to put in a good performance and we did that.”

Whetton double helps men clinch Oceania title

A dominant second half performance by the Kookaburras earned Australia’s men a commanding 5-2 victory over New Zealand in the Oceania Cup final on Sunday afternoon. The outcome meant an eighth consecutive Oceania Cup title for the Kookaburras.

Jason Wilson (QLD) broke the deadlock late in the first half while Jake Whetton’s (QLD) double, the first of which was a cheeky lob over the goalkeeper, put the Kookaburras in the driving seat early in the second period. Russell Ford’s (VIC) thunderbolt strike was an immediate riposte to Steve Edwards’ goal for New Zealand before Glenn Simpson (VIC) fired home a low penalty corner for 5-1. A late goal from New Zealander Nick Haig was little more than a consolation strike. 

Afterwards, coach Graham Reid said that overall he was pleased with how his side had performed but warned that improvements must still be made if the Kookaburras are to regain the coveted world number one spot. 

“It’s always good to win and we played pretty well in patches but we had a shaky start when we were a bit frenetic,” said Reid. “After that, we settled into our rhythm and in the second half were more dominant, although it was a bit of a loose finish, which we’ll need to cut out if we want to be back at world number one.” 

For the best part of the opening half hour the sides were evenly matched. Both created opportunities and the Kookaburras survived a minor scare as the umpires waves away Kiwi appeals for a penalty stroke. But after settling down, first blood went to the Kookaburras as Jason Wilson struck an upright reverse shot following good work by Glenn Turner (ACT). 

The Kookaburras might have been content with the slim lead going in at half time but a moment of inspiration from Jake Whetton doubled the advantage just two minutes before the break. Latching on to Chris Ciriello’s long overhead pass, Whetton showed a sharpness of thought and touch to lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper Hamish McGregor and into the goal for 2-1.

Whetton’s second came just two minutes into the second half as he deflected home on the far post after fellow Queenslander Daniel Beale found him on the back post. And as the Kookaburras began to exert their dominance they won a series of penalty corners. But McGregor and the New Zealand defence proved equal to Chris Ciriello’s drag flicks. 

With just under 15 minutes remaining Steve Edwards pulled one back for New Zealand with a solo effort, dribbling through the Australian defence, but the Kookaburras’ response was immediate. Picking off a wayward New Zealand pass, the Kookaburras countered at speed with Victorian Russell Ford arriving in good time to rifle an unstoppable shot home for 4-1. 

Ford’s fellow Victorian Glenn Simpson then flicked a low penalty corner into the bottom of the goal for 5-2 before Nick Haig’s late consolation for the Black Sticks. 

Looking ahead to the coming months, Reid explained what’s in store for the Kookaburras.“The guys will have three or four weeks off,” he said. “Then it’s back together at the start of December for the World League preparation and with the World Cup and Commonwealth Games next year it’s pretty full on from then. They won’t get much of a Christmas or New Year.”

Hockey Australia