Hockey Australia today announces the 18-member Kookaburras team for the upcoming European legas the 2019 FIH Pro League heads towards finals.
The Kookaburras face five matches in two weeks to round out of the FIH Pro League, plus potentially two more matches in the finals to be played in the Netherlands in late June.
Australia currently sits second in the men’s FIH Pro League standings, ahead of the June matches against Great Britain (9 June), Spain (13 June), Germany (16 June), Belgium (19 June) and the Netherlands (22 June).
The Kookaburras are narrowly behind world champions Belgium on points percentage on the standings, with the further upcoming opponents Netherlands and Great Britain in third and fourth respectively.
The selectors have made several changes from the team which recorded back-to-back wins against New Zealand and Argentina, before a 2-0 Test series victory against India which extended the Kookaburras’ winning run to nine consecutive matches.
Experienced pair Eddie Ockenden and Matthew Swann return after being unavailable for the Pacific leg, while Trent Mitton (finger) and Dylan Wotherspoon (hamstring) are selected after overcoming injuries sustained against New Zealand on Anzac Day. Tim Brand is also added.
Jacob Anderson, Joshua Beltz, Aaron Kleinschmidt, Josh Simmonds and Corey Weyer make way from the side which faced Argentina in Australia’s last FIH Pro League match for the returning quintet.
Kookaburras coach Colin Batch said: “We’ve made a few changes again. We’re looking forward to the European tour. We think we’ll learn a lot playing the European teams, starting with Great Britain.
“We’ve got Eddie Ockenden and Matt Swann coming back into the group. Both of them were unavailable for the Argentina and New Zealand games, so it’s great to see them back in.
“Trent and Dylan are both fully fit and have been training well over the past few weeks so they come back in.”
Ockenden’s selection means he’s likely to bring up his 350th cap for the Kookaburras during the European leg.
The Australian to previously reach the mark is Kookaburras legend Jamie Dwyer who retired on 365 caps. Ockenden currently has 347 caps.
“We think he’s still got some more years in front of him,” Batch said. “His adaptability to play quite a number of positions has been outstanding.
“He still has that enthusiasm to play for the Kookaburras as he did when he first started. He has been outstanding over a long period of time. We congratulate him ahead of his 350th.”
Given the Kookaburras’ winning streak and current position on the FIH Pro League standings, the side is well placed to push to win the title but Batch said they weren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“We’ve got a few games to go,” he said. “Finals are in the distance.
“We want to play well in the five games we’ve got. It looks as though we’ll be in finals but you never know so we’re not looking too far in advance other than the GB match.
“We back up then for Spain. It’s about learning as much as we can about ourselves but also what the current trends are in Europe.”
The team will fly out of Perth for London on Tuesday 4 June. The matches will be televised live by Kayo Sports and on FOX SPORTS.
Kookaburras 18-member team:
- Daniel Beale
- Tim Brand
- Andrew Charter
- Tom Craig
- Matthew Dawson
- Blake Govers
- Jake Harvie
- Jeremy Hayward
- Tim Howard
- Tyler Lovell
- Trent Mitton
- Eddie Ockenden
- Flynn Ogilvie
- Lachlan Sharp
- Matthew Swann
- Jacob Whetton
- Dylan Wotherspoon
- Aran Zalewski