Kookaburras beat Great Britain and officially guarantee Rio spot
4 July 2015
HOCKEY: A 3-1 win over Great Britain secures the Australian men's hockey team a spot at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and ticket to Sunday’s World Hockey League Grand Final against the hosts, Belgium.
Never mind the ‘Road to Rio’, Kookaburras coach Graham Reid dubbed the next 12 months the ‘Race to Rio’ after the Kookaburras came through an absorbing and highly competitive semi-final at the Hockey World League in Antwerp to officially secure their place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
A 3-1 win over Great Britain saw Australia’s men progress to Sunday’s Grand Final against the hosts and world number four, Belgium, who overcame India 4-2 in the other semi-final.
A goal shortly before half time from tournament leading-scorer Blake Govers gave the Australian men a deserved lead but Nick Catlin fired Britain level early in the third quarter.
Daniel Beale restored the Australian advantage two minutes later, sweeping home into an empty goal from Jake Whetton’s unselfish square pass and Whetton went from provider to scorer for the Kookaburras’ third, turning home Jamie
Dwyer’s cross from the right ten minutes from full time.
The margin of victory might have been significantly more but for the goal frame, which twice came to Great Britain’s rescue.
Minutes before Govers’ opener, Fergus Kavanagh’s rasping shot cannoned back off the crossbar and late in the game Eddie Ockenden’s deft deflection on Kieran Govers’ penalty corner rebounded off the post.
British goalkeeper George Pinner also denied the Aussie men on more than one occasion, including a close range glove save from Jamie Dwyer immediately prior to Catlin’s equaliser and a smart low save from Kieran Govers’ penalty corner.
Speaking after the match, Reid said, “I think it’s a race now to Rio. Of all the teams, there isn’t much between them, the top six, the top eight. Whoever can get better the quickest is going to triumph.”
On the match, he said, “The result was what we were chasing. I thought GB came out really hard and to our credit we absorbed the pressure really well.
“In that first 15 minutes they threw everything at us and we stopped most of it. There were probably a couple of lucky ones but that’s alright, you need that.
“Then we started to build into the game and that was what I was very pleased at. We built into it. The second quarter was better and then in the third quarter we had a little bit of a stutter there but after that I thought we controlled the game pretty well from there.”
In a mark of respect and solidarity with the Australian public at home, the Kookaburras wore black armbands in memory of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh, who was tragically killed on Friday.
An energetic opening period saw the Kookaburras weather early British pressure and survive a goalmouth scare in the second minute when David Condon failed to connect at the back post with the Australian goal at his mercy.
Demonstrating their patience, the Kookaburras edged their way into the game and went in front shortly before half time through the tournament’s leading goal scorer, Blake Govers.
After older brother Kieran had won Australia’s first penalty corner of the match, his 18 year-old sibling stepped up to the mark, flicking home low into the bottom left corner.
Australia had a chance to extend their lead early in the third quarter but Jamie Dwyer was denied by a strong glove save from George Pinner in the GB goal. A resulting penalty corner was then flicked wide by Chris Ciriello.
Almost immediately, at the other end, Nick Catlin pounced to equalise. With a run that split the Kookaburras defence, Catlin burst in through the top of the circle to fire a low tomahawk strike into the bottom of the goal.
It took less than two minutes for the Kookaburras to reassert their superiority, however, as Jake Whetton accepted a gift of a misplaced pass from Britain’s Mark Gleghorne on the edge of the GB circle. Drawing the goalkeeper, the Whetton unselfishly squared to fellow Queenslander Daniel Beale who swept home into the empty net for 2-1.
Midway through the final period Jamie Dwyer weaved his way inside the right of the GB circle and as the British defence stood off him, sent a cross to match run of Jake Whetton to the near post, who neatly diverted home.
Three late penalty corners came and went for the Kookaburras who could only watch as Ockenden’s deflection rebounded straight back off the post and Pinner dived full length to his right to tip Kieran Govers’ shot round the same post.
Australia’s men will play Belgium at 2:00am AEST on Monday morning (6:00pm CEST in Belgium, Sunday) in the Grand Final.
Name (Hometown/State) Caps/Goals
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT) 97/0
Chris Ciriello (Melbourne, VIC) 169/109
Tim Deavin (Launceston, TAS) 112/5
Jamie Dwyer (Rockhampton, QLD) 340/222
Blake Govers (Wollongong, NSW) 12/11
Fergus Kavanagh (Geraldton, WA) 205/14
Mark Knowles (Rockhampton, QLD) 264/22
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS) 251/62
Simon Orchard (Maitland, NSW) 177/54
Jake Whetton (Brisbane, QLD) 96/41
Tristan White (Wollongong, NSW) 62/3
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD) 63/12
Kiel Brown (Toowoomba, QLD) 167/6
Matt Gohdes (Rockhampton, QLD) 130/39
Kieran Govers (Wollongong, NSW) 107/56
Tyler Lovell (Perth, WA) 49/0
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD) 121/6
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA) 65/6
Semi-Final & Classification Fixtures & Results
9th/10th: Poland 4-2 China
5th-8th: Ireland 1-0 Pakistan
5th-8th: Malaysia 4-1 France
Semi: India 0-4 Belgium
Semi: Australia 3-1 Great Britain
Match Schedule - Kookaburras
5 July - 18:00 CEST / 02:00 AEST (Monday 6th) - Grand Final - Australia v Belgium
In Australia, Fox Sports is broadcasting the Kookaburras' matches (and those of the Hockeyroos) live from the World League.