Hockeyroos win World League

28 June 2013

HOCKEY: Match reports from the Australian women's campaign at the Hockey World League in London where they are aiming to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. To qualify for next year’s World Cup, the Hockeyroos needed to finish in the top three in London.

Most recent match report appears first

FINAL: Australia (3) defeat England (0)

The Hockeyroos turned it on to win the final of the Investec World League round three tournament in style with an uncompromising, first class performance that the hosts England struggled to cope with. 

A commanding and highly exciting 3-0 win in the ‘Ashes’ clash was the reward for their efforts, although it might have been more had the Hockeyroos not had two goals disallowed on appeal. 

Ashleigh Nelson (WA) and Kellie White (NSW) combined to put the Hockeyroos ahead early in the first half as White set up Nelson on the back post, before White herself doubled Australia’s lead after good work by Eddie Bone (ACT). The margin of victory might have been even greater had Jodie Schulz and Casey Eastham not had goals disallowed on appeal either side of half time but Emily Smith (NSW) gave the score the polish it deserved with a goal ten minutes from full time after being set up by Emily Hurtz (NSW). 

The result completes a hat-trick for Adam Commens’ Hockeyroos, who went into the tournament looking to seal qualification to the fourth round of the World League and the 2014 World Cup, as well as bag victory in the final itself.

Speaking afterwards, Head Coach Adam Commens said winning the gold medal was an important milestone in the team’s progression in world hockey. “It was really good to win,” he said. “This really gives us a lot of belief that we belong in the top echelons of world hockey. We played fantastically well, we moved the ball well, and we countered well. We were consistent throughout and they [England] only had one shot at goal and no penalty corners.

“It’s really satisfying to win the tournament, although to win World League round four [in Argentina in November], we’ll need to be better than over here because there are other top sides around the world.

“We’ve improved a lot over the last couple of years and I was particularly impressed with the younger players we brought here to London. And, we’ve got some very good players back at home, too. Anna Flanagan, Georgia Nanscawen, Emily Smith, Karri McMahon, Jane Claxton, Jordyn Holzberger and Jade Warrender are all Junior World Cup players, although Jade Warrender had to withdraw from this squad with her injury, so I think it augurs well for our junior team that we’ve got good players coming through.”

From the start the Hockeyroos’ high-tempo pressing game plan was clear for all to see and it paid dividends in the 12th minute when Ashleigh Nelson knocked the ball home at the back post to give Australia the lead. It was a goal from a very similar position as that from which she scored in the semi-final against China the day before and it came as the result of good work by Kellie White, who squared the ball after getting in behind the English defence on the baseline.

Some good Australian defensive work thwarted a surging run from England youngster Lily Owsley before White netted a goal of her own for 2-0. In almost identical fashion to White’s earlier run, Eddie Bone cut in behind the English defence before pulling the ball back to White on the penalty spot, who finished clinically with an upright shot on her reverse.

As the first half progressed Australia’s dominance appeared to be rewarded again as Jodie Schulz fired home what might have been the Hockeyroos’ third goal but on closer inspection the ball ricocheted into the net off the body of an England defender after hitting her dangerously high. An appeal to the video umpire by England resulted in the goal being disallowed.

Georgia Nanscawen had an early second half effort blocked by England goalkeeper Maddie Hinch before, at the other end, her Hockeyroos opposite number Rachael Lynch watched as a tomahawk from the top of the circle sailed safely over the top.

A series of Australian penalty corners failed to extend the Hockeyroos’ lead but it looked as if Casey Eastham might have done so when she squeezed a shot into the goal. However, another successful video referral appeal by England showed Georgie Parker’s tackle on Kate Walsh in the build-up to be illegal and it remained 2-0 to the Hockeyroos.

It was only a matter of time, though, and when it came, Australia’s third goal from Emily Smith was thoroughly deserved. With her back to goal, she got off a low shot around the corner and into the goal after Emily Hurtz’s pinpoint pass.

In what was fast becoming a feature of the match, Australia’s defence twice used the video referral system to good effect in the closing stages, resulting in the overturning of two penalty corner awards to help retain an impressive clean sheet as they closed out the 3-0 win.

It was a third clean sheet of the tournament for the team that has conceded just three goals in six matches in London. At the other end, their 18 goals scored was the highest tally of any side in the competition.

For Flanagan, Nanscawen, Smith, McMahon, Claxton, Holzberger and Jade Warrender, a return to Australian shores will be short lived as they prepare to head back to Europe with the Jillaroos team for the Junior World Cup. The squad departs on 17 July with Australia’s first match against India on 27 July.

The next opportunities to see the Hockeyroos in action are the International Super Series Hockey 9s in October, the Oceania Cup in late October/early November and the fourth and final round of the World League in Argentina in December.

SF: Australia (4) defeat China (1)

The Hockeyroos secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup with a commanding 4-1 victory over China in the semi-final of the Investec World League in the early hours of Sunday morning.  The win also earns the Hockeyroos a spot in Monday’s final against the hosts, England. The final takes place at 3:00am AEST, Monday.

It was an utterly dominant and highly skilled performance by the form team of the tournament, overcoming a Chinese side ranked just one place below Australia in the World rankings in seventh.

Four strikes from Ashleigh Nelson (WA), Claire Messent (VIC), Georgie Parker (SA) and Emily Hurtz (NSW) cancelled out China’s opener by Li Hongxia with the Australians’ potency in front of goal only stifled by good goalkeeping.

A delighted Adam Commens, the Hockeyroos’ Head Coach, said afterwards, “It’s fantastic to come here and achieve that. To qualify for the World Cup, to qualify for the World League round four and now we’re in the final.

“It was a good performance. We knew we could run over the top of the Chinese in the second half. We’ve been finishing matches strongly and we stuck to our plan. We created lots of chances late on. I’m really pleased with the opportunities we created; it was a real pleasure to watch. The quality of our skills was high and we’ll be ready to repeat that against England.”

Commenting on the four goals, all of which came from open play, Commens added, “We’ve been doing well with our penalty corners but the Chinese goalkeeper made some good saves today so it was great to see us put away some field goals.

“It would be really good to see us back to winning tournaments. We’re going into the final as the form team of the tournament.”

A quiet opening period failed to hint at the excitement to come as both sides defended their circles well. Three Australian penalty corners in quick succession failed to produce an opener before Li Hongxia struck at the other end, firing a low tomahawk shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the circle. But the Hockeyroos were behind for barely 60 seconds when Ashleigh Nelson tapped in at the back post to level the score at 1-1. Emily Hurtz’s initial shot was off target but Georgia Nanscawen did well to collect the ball before threading it through to Nelson, eliminating the goalkeeper and leaving the former Miss WA contender with a simple finish.

The second half began with a bout of Australian pressure, which never truly subsided as first Casey Eastham saw a shot blocked before Anna Flanagan had her penalty corner flick well saved by the outstretched left foot of the goalkeeper, Li Ji. Jodie Schulz then saw her penalty corner effort saved by Li before Claire Messent put the Hockeyroos in front.

Nelson was again involved in the goal, this time providing the pass to Messent who did well to recover from a collision with the goalkeeper as she rushed off the line to meet her. Maintaining excellent close control Messent swivelled to unleash a shot inside the near post for 2-1.

Captain Madonna Blyth saw a shot saved before two became three as Georgie Parker applied a deft touch as she met a drilled pass to lift the ball over the goalkeeper and into the goal, despite the late attempts by the Chinese defence to clear it.
Two goals clear and in control the Hockeyroos refused to back off and continued to bombard the Chinese defence as the match entered its final ten minutes. When Madonna Blyth’s ‘never give up’ attitude found her diving to force a pass to Emily Hurtz inside the circle, the 23-year-old made no mistake with a low sweeping shot for 4-1.

Teneal Attard said afterwards, "It was really good to put a really solid performance in throughout the whole game. I think the first half was pretty even, but I think we ran over them in the second half. Our fitness and composure really stood out. We were able to put some goals away and it felt really good.

"We were looking to put some good performances together, which we’ve managed to do consistently - that has been a focus for us. Obviously qualifying for the World Cup is really important for us, and we’re really happy to have secured our spot. We’ve still got a job to do tomorrow and we’ll definitely be going home, doing our recovery properly and getting ready for the final. It doesn’t matter who we play, we’ll come out and play our usual game. We’ll do our research and we’ll have a look at the game tonight but it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ll come out as always and be looking to get the win."

Georgia Nanscawen said, "We knew that if we stuck to our processes then we’d probably come out on top. We created heaps of chances and it was a really good game. Personally it would have been nice to put one in but I’m pretty happy overall.

"It [World Cup qualification] was always in the back of our minds, it’s an incredibly important tournament for the World Cup qualification and it’s fantastic that we’ve taken that bit of pressure from us. But now we want to win the tournament and that’s what we’ve always wanted to do so we’re looking forward to tomorrow."

The result guarantees Australia’s women qualification for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, where they will join their male counterparts, the Kookaburras, who qualified for the men’s tournament at last week’s World League in Rotterdam.

QF: Australia (4) defeat USA (1)

A clinical first half team performance helped the Hockeyroos to a 4-1 win over USA in their Investec World League quarter-final in London and sealed a place in the semi-final against the winner of the subsequent match between China and Spain.

The result guarantees the Hockeyroos a berth at the World League Finals tournament in Argentina later in the year and keeps them in contention for a valuable World Cup qualification spot should they win their semi-final in the early hours of Sunday morning.

First half goals from Emily Smith, Kellie White, Karri McMahon and Jodie Schulz did the damage for the Australian women with White’s spectacular tomahawk strike a serious contender for goal of the tournament.

Head Coach Adam Commens was delighted with his side’s professional approach to the game, saying afterwards, “It was a quality performance in the front third, particularly in the first half, and the result was beyond doubt by half time. We were able to play more relaxed, comfortable hockey in the second half so we didn’t throw everything at them, although I was slightly disappointed with our final 15 minutes and that will need to be better in the semi-final.

“We scored some really high quality goals today. It was a great finish from Kellie White and from Jodie Schulz, too. And with Karri McMahon scoring we can say we have four genuine threats from the top of the D [at penalty corners] in Karri, Emily Hurtz, Jodie and Anna [Flanagan]. It’s been a long time since Australia could say that.”

Commens acknowledged the importance of qualifying for the final round of the World League competition in December, adding, “You can only improve by playing more often in high quality matches such as the World League finals and the Champions Trophy.”

Things began well for the Hockeyroos when Smith swivelled at the top of the circle and fired a shot low into the bottom corner of the goal to give Australia a seventh minute lead but the USA, who failed to win a match in the pool phase, struck back just three minutes later. American Rachael Dawson sent her drilled penalty corner shot into the bottom right of the goal to restore parity.

Back roared the Hockeyroos with White’s wonder-strike to retake a lead they never lost. Firing a powerful tomahawk effort across the goal from the edge of the circle, White’s second goal of the tournament gave American goalkeeper Jackie Kintzer no chance on its way to nestling in the far side of the net.

The Hockeyroos survived a scare at the USA’s second penalty corner before Karri McMahon’s corner strike made it 3-1 just over midway through the half. It took a while for the goal to be awarded after the umpire consulted her video colleague to ensure the ball had travelled outside the circle but Teneal Attard’s excellent readjustment and McMahon’s flat strike were judged to have fairly extended the lead. It was McMahon’s second goal for Australia.

Ten minutes before the break Jodie Schulz struck for the second time in the tournament with her own unstoppable flick from a penalty corner; this one flying high into the goal for 4-1.

A controlled and professional second half by the Hockeyroos stifled any attempts by the USA to find a way back into the match although half chances fell to both sides, including a series of unconverted penalty corners.

The Hockeyroos will be guaranteed a spot at the 2014 World Cup if they win their semi-final against the winner of the China v Spain quarter-final. However, defeat would not close that avenue completely with the third placed team in London also qualifying.

At the time of writing the Hockeyroos’ semi-final will take place at 2:30am AEST on Sunday morning, although this is subject to potential rescheduling depending on the hosts England and TV requirements. Earlier in the day Argentina beat South Africa 3-1 to become the first side through to the semi-finals. They will play the winner of the quarter-final between England and Italy.  

GAME 3: Australia (1) defeat South Africa (0)

Newly crowned World Young Player of the Year Anna Flanagan proved why she’s so highly rated as her goal from a second half penalty corner sealed victory over South Africa in the Hockeyroos’ World Cup qualifying campaign in London.

The 1-0 win maintains the Hockeyroos unbeaten run at the Investec World League following victory over Spain and a draw with England in their opening two matches and sets Australia up well going into the quarter-final round.

Despite the narrow margin, the Australians enjoyed the best of the match with Jodie Schulz, Emily Smith and Ashleigh Nelson all threatening the goal of Vuyisanani Mangisa, who was in fine form for the South Africans.

Head Coach Adam Commens said he was impressed with how his side managed the game, calling it a “solid performance all round”, adding, “I’m really pleased with the performance. South Africa is a team that has caused us problems in the past couple of years; they’re a really experienced side and I’m pleased we executed our penalty corner to score. It was a reasonably even game but I thought we controlled it well. The only moments South Africa caused us problems were when we were down to ten players with green and yellow cards.”

The first half finished goalless despite both sides creating chances. Hockeyroo Ashleigh Nelson (WA) found her break behind the defence smothered by South Africa goalkeeper Mangisa and Casey Eastham (NSW) narrowly failed to connect with a Georgie Parker (SA) cross from the left. Flanagan (ACT), who had earlier been presented with her FIH World Young Player of the Year Award, then saw her low flick from a 22nd minute penalty corner well saved by the goalkeeper. For their part, South Africa failed to take full advantage of an early penalty corner while a tame shot was kept out easily enough by Rachael Lynch (VIC) in the Australian goal.

The breakthrough came shortly after half time as the Hockeyroos turned defence into attack, countering from a South African penalty corner to win one of their own from which Jodie Schulz’s effort was well saved. A second consecutive corner award came moments later and up stepped Flanagan to flick the ball high into the goal to score what would be the decisive goal of the match.

Australia survived a scare midway through the second half when the vastly experienced South African Pietie Coetzee saw her penalty corner cannon back off the base of the post but that was to be it for South African chances. With the match progressing, the Hockeyroos pressed their opponents high up the pitch, limiting their creativity with Schulz even earning a late penalty corner following excellent individual play. Flanagan’s resulting shot was saved.

The result means that the Hockeyroos are certain to finish in one of the top two spots in Pool B and will face either USA or Italy in the quarter final. Where exactly they finish depends on the outcome of the remaining England v Spain fixture. Anything less than a three goal win for England and Australia will top the pool, facing off against USA in the quarter finals. Finishing second in Pool B would set up a match against Italy.

The Hockeyroos potential quarter final fixtures are at either midnight AEST on Friday, 29 June,  against Italy or at 3:00am AEST on Friday against USA.

In the other pool of the tournament, victories for Argentina and China assured them of the top two positions while Italy finished third and USA fourth.

To qualify automatically for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, the Hockeyroos must finish in the top three of the Investec World League tournament.

GAME 2: Australia (1) draw with England (1)

Following their comprehensive victory over Spain 24 hours earlier, the Hockeyroos came from behind to share the spoils with hosts England at the Investec World League tournament in London. It was a match in which the Hockeyroos improved throughout and a result that keeps Australia top of Pool B, ahead of a crucial quarter final on Thursday, which will go a long way to determining qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

Trailing at half time to a goal by England’s Hollie Webb, Jodie Schulz’s second half rocket of a penalty corner earned the Hockeyroos a deserved equaliser with ten minutes remaining. And it could have been even better had Schulz not seen another effort in the final minute of the match well saved by the English goalkeeper.

Head coach Adam Commens said afterwards, “I thought it was a game we started really well. We created a number of chances and were unlucky not to be ahead. England defended defiantly and tried to counter attack us; we need to learn how to play against that.

“We got better and better as the match went on and we’re still top of the pool, which means our destiny is in our own hands. A good performance against South Africa [in the final pool match] should give us a good draw for the quarter-finals.”

Despite enjoying the best of the early possession and winning a penalty corner, Australia found themselves behind at half time through Webb’s well struck shot from a 25th minute corner.

Three minutes after the restart Hockeyroos’ goalkeeper Rachael Lynch pulled off an outstanding save to maintain the one goal deficit as she acrobatically hooked the ball away from underneath the crossbar just as Hannah Macleod looked certain to double England’s lead. The save was to prove important.

Australia’s equaliser, when it came, was all about the power and pinpoint accuracy of Schulz’s flick as she fired a shot across Maddie Hinch’s goal and inside the opposite post. It was the goal that the Hockeyroos deserved and sparked a highly entertaining final ten minutes with both sides going for the victory. The Hockeyroos came closest to snatching all three points; first, Georgia Nanscawen’s bravery saw her connect with a cross from right but she was denied at point blank range by the goalkeeper, Hinch; and a well-judged decision to use the video referral two minutes from the end handed a further opportunity to Schulz late on. This time opting to shoot low, her flick was on target for the bottom corner but Hinch was equal to the task, deflecting the ball out to safety and ensuring that the match finished level; 1-1 the final score.
It means that Australia still top the group on goal difference from England, holding the coveted number one position that would mean a quarter-final showdown against the bottom team in Pool A, currently USA who suffered a surprise defeat to Italy earlier in the day.

The Hockeyroos third and final pool match is against South Africa at 2:30am AEST on Wednesday, 26 June. The match will be streamed live online at

GAME 1: Australia (5) defeat Spain (0)

The Hockeyroos got their World League campaign off to an emphatic start with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Spain in London on day one.

Having been held at bay for much of the first half, Georgia Nanscawen’s goal just before half time opened the floodgates for a second period that witnessed goals from Claire Messent, Kellie White and Emily Hurtz, plus an unfortunate Spanish own goal, rounding off an intelligent performance by the Hockeyroos.

Head Coach Adam Commens was delighted with his side’s performance, saying afterwards, “I’m really pleased with the result and the performance. Spain can be a little tricky and they proved that in the first 20 minutes or so, but we knew if we persisted and adapted we’d get the result.

“I was pleased with the perseverance and our ability to learn during the match as we adapted to how they fell off and that’s a credit to our players.”

For Hockeyroos captain Madonna Blyth the match held special significance as she stepped out to represent her country for the 250th time. In doing so, she becomes only the fifth Australian woman to make 250 appearances, following in the footsteps of Nikki Hudson (303), Rochelle Hawkes (279), Karen Smith (271) and Katrina Powell (252).

Speaking about his captain, Commens said, “Donny was outstanding today. She led by example, she was creative and she ran hard. I think it was one of the best performances I’ve seen from her.”

With a match against England tomorrow, Commens said his focus had already turned to the clash with the tournament hosts: “We’ve got to focus on England now. A good result will give us the chance to top our pool and set us up for the all-important quarter-final.”

The quarter final ties will determine which sides reach the final four, with the top three teams in the tournament gaining qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

Things began brightly for the Hockeyroos with Georgie Parker threatening inside the opening two minutes with a deflection that flew narrowly wide of the post; and a fifth minute penalty corner saw shots saved from newly crowned World Young Player of the Year Anna Flanagan and Georgia Nanscawen as Australia looked to break the deadlock.

Dominant in possession from start to finish, the Hockeyroos might have taken the lead midway through the first half but Ashleigh Nelson’s exciting run along the baseline finished with a shot just wide.

That Nanscawen should score the opener was of little surprise given that she had already seen three good efforts kept out by Spanish goalkeeper Maria Lopez. Two minutes before the break it was Nanscawen who reacted quickest to sweep home from close range after good work by Nelson inside the circle to make it 1-0.

Just over five minutes after the restart Claire Messent doubled the Hockeryoos’ lead to 2-0. An acrobatic triple save by Lopez thwarted shots from Flanagan, Emily Smith and Nanscawen before Victorian Messent tucked the ball home from close range.

And Kellie White made it 3-0 soon after with a shot that looped over the line off the stick of a Spanish defender under pressure from youngster Jane Claxton. They say you create your own luck and that luck continued with an inadvertent own goal by Spanish defender Maria Lopez, off whose foot the ball rolled into the net from Karri McMahon’s penetrating long pass for 4-0.

Despite the Hockeyroos’ command, the Spanish did have one clear opportunity of their own, a rasping shot off the post of newly installed substitute goalkeeper Toni Cronk, but the Australian clean sheet remained intact.

Adding the icing to the cake in the final minute of the match, Emily Hurtz struck to make it 5-0. Casey’s Eastham’s shot from a narrow angle was kicked into the air by the substitute Spanish goalkeeper Ruiz and Hurtz showed great composure to pluck the ball from mid-air before dispatching it back into the goal. Hurtz had been only lately called into the side as a replacement for the injured Jade Warrender.

Hockey Australia

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