A capacity crowd of 4000 was present at the Perth Hockey Stadium as the Australia men’s and women’s teams claimed important FIH Pro League victories over visitors Great Britain on Match Day 12.
Great Britain’s men (FIH World Ranking: 7) arrived in Perth sitting at the top of the FIH Pro League standings with a 100 percent win record from their matches against Spain and New Zealand. They made a lively start in their clash with the Kookaburras (WR:2), with Sam Ward creating an early chance in an opening quarter that saw Australia edge ahead. Trent Mitton tapped into an open goal with two minutes of the first period remaining, with Eddie Ockenden providing a brilliant assist with a diving, one-handed pass to eliminate GB goalkeeper Harry Gibson.
GB had the better of the opening stages of the second quarter but were stopped in their tracks by a goal against the run of play, with Jacob Anderson scoring his third goal in two matches with a cracking volley after Jake Whetton’s initial strike was blocked. Whetton almost made it three when he flashed a shot wide of the target after a flowing attack, with his side taking a 2-0 advantage into the half time break.
The score-line remained unchanged in the third quarter, although Alan Forsyth and Will Calnan both went close for Great Britain with backhand efforts, while Australia’s Tom Wickham had a glorious chance in the fourth period to put his team out of sight but failed to force the ball into an open goal. It proved to be Australia’s day, inflicting a first defeat on Great Britain to push the Kookaburras up to fourth in the FIH Pro League standings. To view the current standings, please click here.
“We had a rough start [to the FIH Pro League], especially the first weekend where we conceded a lot of goals”, said Australia’s Eddie Ockenden, who was named Player of the Match. “We conceded two against Germany, but I think in the last half of that game and in this match we haven’t conceded a goal which is much better, and where we want to be.”
Great Britain captain Adam Dixon said: “You are not going to get many chances against Australia so when you get them you need to take them. They have a game plan and they stick to it. They just wait for you to slip up and they take those opportunities. It happened early and we resolved it later on, but we couldn’t quite do it at the other end of the pitch.”
Australia’s women (WR:3) were aiming to build on an excellent start to their FIH Pro League campaign that saw them come into today’s match against Olympic champions Great Britain (WR:2) sitting second in the standings. GB, now coached by former Kookaburras striker Mark Hager, were looking to bounce back from last week’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of New Zealand, a team coached by Hager for the best part of ten years.
Great Britain had the better of the chances in the first period, with Australia goalkeeper Rachael Lynch denying Ellie Rayer while Sarah Robertson and Giselle Ansley both failed to hit the target with good opportunities. The Hockeyroos had some good chances of their own and it was the hosts who took the lead at the end of the first period thanks to Kalindi Commerford, who made the perfect connection to a cross from the right to find the net from close range.
Australia were the dominant force in the second quarter and doubled their advantage in sensational style, with Mariah Williams drilling a bouncing ball past goalkeeper Nicola Cochrane and into the roof of the Great Britain net.
Australia’s Paul Gaudoin was the happier of the two coaches going into the two remaining quarters, although Mark Hager stated in the half time broadcast interview that he felt his GB team were still very much in the contest. Hager’s side certainly kept Lynch busy, with the shot-stopper being forced into numerous saves to deny the Olympic champions a goal in a third quarter dominated by the visiting team from Europe.
The Hockeyroos were outstanding in the early stages final quarter, with GB’s replacement goalkeeper Amy Tennant doing enough to pressurise Rosie Malone into firing wide moments before the third Australian goal duly arrived. Savannah Fitzpatrick was the scorer of what proved to be the final strike of the game, although it was created thanks to a brilliant run from defence into attack by Kaitlin Nobbs. The 3-0 win sees Australia move up to second in the FIH Pro League standings, which can be viewed by clicking here.
“It was pretty amazing”, said Player of the Match Mariah Williams, discussing what it what like to play in front of the home crowd. “There were a lot of supporters out there today. It’s really great to have people come out to watch the Hockeyroos and the Kookaburras. It’s really good to have some games in Australia.”
On whether her side had made progress from the team’s opening FIH Pro League match against New Zealand, Great Britain captain Hollie Pearne-Webb said: “The New Zealand game was the first match together as a new team, so this was out second game and there were massive steps forward. I think we can be happy with that, we made a lot of progress, but there are still areas we need to work on in the final third. [We are] feeling much more positive.”