The Kookaburras have had their Australia Day celebrations soured, suffering a 4-2 loss to new world number one Belgium in their FIH Pro League match tonight.
The result means Australia commence the 2020 edition with one point from the opening two matches, the same position they began their 2019 title winning campaign.
Coming off a three-week preparation, it was always going to be a difficult proposition for Australia coming up against the European powerhouse midway through their season.
Yet there were patches of the Kookaburras’ customary brilliance littered throughout, particularly from the likes of local New South Welshmen Tim Brand, Lachlan Sharp, Tom Craig and Flynn Ogilvie.
“We played really well in patches, but not for long enough. There’s a lot to improve on,” Kookaburras co-captain Eddie Ockenden acknowledged post-match.
Kookaburras goalkeeper Tyler Lovell was busy early on, completing a fine double save before Belgium opened the scoring through an Alexander Hendrickx penalty corner rocket after 13 minutes.
The Kookaburras enjoyed more possession in the second quarter but could only muster a clear-cut opportunity from Dylan Wotherspoon as Belgium headed into half-time 2-0 up by virtue of his Hendrickx’s second penalty corner conversion.
The game opened up in the third quarter, Sharp lifting the home crowd when he unleashed an unstoppable tomahawk into the Belgium goal.
Entering the final five minutes, Lovell’s crossbar came to the rescue to deny Sebastian Dockier only to see Maxime Plennevaux ghost in behind his marker and deflect truly seconds later.
With nothing to lose the Kookaburras reverted to eleven field players and piled on the pressure only to see Belgium counter attack at lightning speed to score through Emmanuel Stockbroekx.
Jeremy Hayward rifled a drag flick into the top right-hand corner of the net in the final late on but it was nothing more than a consolation as the Kookaburras could not cap off Matt Swann’s 200th appearance with a win.
The Kookaburras have a week to recover and prepare for two matches against Great Britain in Sydney next weekend, with tickets available from Ticketek and games broadcast on Fox Sports and/or Kayo.
Kookaburras 2 (Sharp 42’, Hayward 60’)
Belgium 4 (Hendrickx 13’/25’, Plennevaux 56’, Stockbroekx 58’)
@ Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre
Kookaburras: 1.Lachlan SHARP, 2.Tom CRAIG, 5.Tom WICKHAM, 6.Matthew DAWSON. 9.Jacob ANDERSON, 11.Eddie OCKENDEN, 12.Jake WHETTON, 15.Josh SIMMONDS, 16.Tim HOWARD, 17.Aran ZALEWSKI (c), 20.Matthew SWANN, 22.Flynn OGILVIE, 23.Daniel BEALE, 24.Tyler LOVELL (gk), 26.Dylan WOTHERSPOON, 29.Tim BRAND, 32.Jeremy HAYWARD
Unused substitute: 30.Andrew CHARTER (gk)
Belgium: 2.Loic van DOREN (gk), 4.Arthur van DOREN, 7.John-John DOHMEN, 8.Florent van AUBEL, 9.Sebastien DOCKIER, 10.Cedric CHARLIER, 13.Nicolas de KERPEL, 14.Augustin MEURMANS, 15.Emmanuel STOCKBROEKX, 16.Alexander HENDRICKX, 17.Thomas BRIELS (c), 18.Maxime PLENNEVAUX, 19.Felix DENAYER, 22.Simon GOUGNARD, 23.Arthur de SLOOVER, 24.Antoine KINA, 25.Loick LUYPAERT
Unused substitute: 21.Vincent VANASCH (gk)