Kookaburras team named for Tokyo Olympics
The Australian Olympic Committee has announced the Kookaburras team who will represent Australia in men’s hockey at Tokyo 2020.
Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo Ian Chesterman attended the announcement at the Western Australian Institute in Perth, confirming to 16 lucky athletes that they will compete at the pinnacle tournament of their sport.
Co-captain Eddie Ockenden joins hockey greats like Rechelle Hawkes, Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles in making his fourth Olympics, with the men’s team featuring six Olympians named for their second Games and nine Olympic debutants.
One of those debutants is 23 year old Dylan Martin, who only came into the squad this year and made his international debut as recently as 27 May in the Trans-Tasman Series against New Zealand.
Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch said the bolter who heralds from Wagga Wagga more than deserved his selection.
“We have watched Dylan closely both last year and this year and think he has the goods,” said Batch.
“He’s calm under pressure, makes good decisions with and without the ball and is a really good defender, so we think he can perform well in our way of play and on the big stage.”
Another who will head to his first Olympics is Perth local Trent Mitton. After missing out on selection in 2012 and 2016, the striker’s patience and persistence has paid off.
Batch said the task of narrowing the squad down from 27 to 16 was extremely difficult given the amount of depth and talent in the group.
“We have a really committed squad and of course this team announcement brings some elation but also some disappointment in the group,” said Batch.
“Some players have played well recently and not been selected. We have had limited international matches but the importance and value we place on our daily training environment is also a major part of our assessment.”
Ockenden heads to his fourth Olympics as the Kookaburras co-captain alongside Aran Zalewski and is buoyant about the team’s chances despite the unprecedented build up which saw them go over 400 days without playing an international match due to COVID.
“It’s special and humbling to join those great hockey players who have represented Australia at four Olympics,” said Ockenden.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s my fourth Olympics – I’m still excited to make it and excited about the challenge and opportunity ahead.
“We have a really strong squad – some really good players missed out on selection so our depth is huge in the Kookaburras at the moment.
“We’ve got a good mix of experience and some great young guys coming through with plenty of enthusiasm, so we’ll be confident – we just have to make sure we’re playing our best when we get over there and when it gets to crunch time
The Kookaburras find themselves currently ranked as the number one ranked team in the world, having leapfrogged Belgium after their 4-0 series sweep over New Zealand.
When it comes to Olympics, Batch knows rankings stand for little and knows what will be required if the Kookaburras are to be successful in Tokyo.
The Kookaburras will launch the Tokyo 2020 men’s hockey competition in a mouth-watering encounter against hosts Japan on 24 July.
“Being at our best when we need to be is what it’s all about,” said Batch.
“Our first aim is to qualify for the quarter finals and we cannot underestimate that. We come up against a determined host country first up who will be nicely acclimatised and very eager to perform well in front of their home crowd, so each match generates a different set of circumstances.
“We’re not looking too far past that first match against Japan.”
The Kookaburras’ Olympic medal cabinet comprises one gold, three silver and five bronze medals, the last of which came when the team claimed bronze at the 2012 London Games.
Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman congratulated the athletes on today’s selection.
“Today is a fantastic recognition of the skill and resilience of these teams and players, and I congratulate them on making the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo,” said Mr Chesterman.
“The Hockeyroos and Kookaburras hold a special place in Australia’s Olympic tradition and these players will continue to build on that rich legacy. I want to particularly congratulate Eddie Ockenden – the talent, commitment, resilience and drive to make four Olympic Games is truly inspiring and an exceptional achievement.
“Thank you to Hockey Australia, the coaching and support staff, and the families, friends and supporters who have been there every step of the way with each of these 16 athletes.”
The Hockey competition will run from 24 July – 6 August at Oi Hockey Stadium.
Find out more with full athlete Bios at www.olympics.com.au/games/tokyo-2020/team/