Confidence is high but Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch wants more consistency from his playing group when they host Argentina in two highly anticipated FIH Pro League matches at the Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University tomorrow and Saturday.
Despite securing four out of a possible six points in their two matches in their recent trip to India, which is more points than any other side has secured in the subcontinent so far this year, Batch knows the Kookaburras were guilty of letting their opponents back into both matches.
This has given the 2019 FIH Coach of the Year and his coaching staff something to ponder, with Batch set to welcome a number of players back into the fold and also make some personnel changes from Friday to Saturday in an attempt to discover the depth in the squad.
“Even though we will have some changes from match one to match two, I want to see some consistency in our performances, both individually and as a collective,” said Batch.
“If we go ahead in a game, we need to deal with those situations better than what we have done in the past, and if we happen to find ourselves behind, we are confident we have a plan and a style that can overcome that.
“We have got a lot of confidence within the group but we still need to execute and that is what this weekend is about.”
From the team that played in India, Matt Swann, Flynn Ogilvie, and Josh Simmonds are all inclusions for the opening match against Argentina, who are the reigning Olympic gold medallists, while Tom Craig and Jacob Anderson will not be considered due to injury.
Jake Whetton is another who will miss the matches after suffering a hamstring injury in the second match against India.
On a positive note, Batch hinted that Blake Govers, the Pro League’s leading goal scorer last year, could come into contention for Saturday’s match in what would be his first appearance since tearing his adductor playing in the Sultana Bran Hockey One League back in late October.
“It is always a challenge for a player who has had a long term injury, and for Blake, it was disrupted by the summer break, so he hasn’t played much hockey since the injury,” said Batch.
“It’s difficult to pick the pace of the game up when you first come back, but I think Blake is capable of it. He has been training well, so he will be very keen to play.”
Coming up against a largely experienced Argentinian team who have scored 18 times in their six Pro League matches this campaign, Batch believes the matches against the South Americans will be vastly different from what the Kookaburras faced against India.
“Argentina can be very direct and break really quickly from the defence, but at other times they like to slow the game down, so we’ve got to make sure we play at the tempo that we want to play at,” said Batch.
“Just like India, Argentina is in our pool at the Olympics, so it is important that we have two good matches against them.”
While Batch will take his normal place in charge of Friday’s game, he will be absent on Saturday as he attends his son’s wedding. Assistant Coach Anthony Potter will take the reigns in Batch’s absence, together with fellow assistant Rob Hammond.
The Kookaburras will wear a special Indigenous playing kit for the matches against Argentina as part of Hockey Australia’s Indigenous themed weekend which will celebrate the contribution of past and present Indigenous Australian players.