Author: Nic Kerber
The first step towards the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras booking their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics begins tomorrow (Thursday 5 September 2019) as they open their Oceania Cup campaigns in Rockhampton.
The Oceania Cup will see Australia’s national women’s and men’s hockey teams take on their New Zealand counterparts in a best-of-three match series with the winners to automatically qualify for next year’s Games in Tokyo.
For both the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras, ensuring straight passage through to the Olympics has been the biggest priority on the 2019 calendar year. Now the wait is over and both teams cannot wait to get down to business.
Both teams have been in Rockhampton since Sunday finalising their preparations, and considering the prize on the line, there is an excitement among both groups of what lies ahead over the next four days.
“We’re excited to be in Rocky for the Oceania Cup. It’s a very important tournament,” said Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch.
“We spoke about it this morning as a group that we’re ready to go. We’ve got another day to wait but we’re eager to get underway and put in a good performance.”
Hockeyroos Head Coach Paul Gaudoin shares Batch’s sentiments.
“Everyone is excited. We know it’s an important event for us to qualify for Tokyo and we know the Kiwis are a very strong team so it’s going to be a really tough competition,” said Gaudoin.
“But we’re well prepared and looking forward to it.”
Batch coached the Black Sticks (New Zealand) prior to the last Olympics and knows all too well the threat a number of their players can pose.
“They (New Zealand) have obviously had some changes since I was there,” said Batch.
“You’ve got respect what they’ve been able to achieve. The last time we played them we won narrowly 4-3 so they’re a very good side. They have got some really good players on all lines and we respect them enormously.”
“But we have been thorough with our preparation so hopefully that will show through and we can get the job done.”
With the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos currently holding down the number one and two spots on the world rankings, Batch and Gaudoin know it comes with an added level of pressure and expectation, particularly playing on home soil.
But it is pressure they both say their players are embracing, while at the same time knowing that a high ranking does not guarantee a positive result.
“I think there is that (pressure). The higher you go up the ranks the more you are expected to win, but we certainly know, by looking at the recent Tokyo Test Event and European championships, that the teams are very close together,” said Gaudoin.
“It’s very close between the top 10 or 12 teams in the world so we’re acutely aware of that and we respect the New Zealand group very highly.
“There are nerves that we need to qualify. We’re aware of that and you don’t take going to the Olympics lightly. It’s an achievement to get to the Olympics and this is our first step.
“We know we can’t get ahead of ourselves and need to apply ourselves to the job at hand which will be focusing on getting a win tomorrow night.”
All of the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras’ Oceania Cup matches against New Zealand will be LIVE streamed on the Oceania Hockey Federation Facebook page or by going to https://livestream.com/accounts/9457344/events/8747921
The 2019 Oceania Cup is owned and delivered by the Oceania Hockey Federation in conjunction with the Rockhampton Hockey Association. For more information on the Oceania Cup visit http://hockey.org.au/OC19
Oceania Cup 2019 schedule (doubles as qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics)
5-8 September 2019
Kalka Shades Hockey Fields, Rockhampton, Queensland
Thursday 5 September 2019
Kookaburras v New Zealand (4:00pm AEST)
Hockeyroos v New Zealand (6:00pm AEST)
Saturday 7 September 2019
Hockeyroos v New Zealand (4:00pm AEST)
Kookaburras v New Zealand (6:00pm AEST)
Sunday 8 September 2019
Hockeyroos v New Zealand (4:00pm AEST)
Kookaburras v New Zealand (6:15pm AEST)
Click here to purchase tickets.