The Kookaburras have arrived in the Top End for the Darwin International Hockey Open (DIHO) which coach Colin Batch says is all about fine-tuning ahead of the Men’s World Cup in India later this year.
World number one Australia will be one of the favourites for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India, when it takes place from 28 November to 16 December 2018.
Australia, who have won the past two World Cups, are in Pool B with England (ranked seventh), Ireland (10th) and China (17th).
The Kookaburras’ final official internationals before the World Cup will take place in Darwin, with the side to take on world number two Argentina as well as recent Asian Games finalists Japan (16th) and Malaysia (12th).
Australia will play Argentina in a one-off match on Sunday 16 September, before the DIHO gets underway officially on Tuesday 18 September.
“It’s about preparing for the World Cup now,” Batch said. “Having our final internationals in Darwin will be important to progress towards our final team for India.
“Playing in the heat is good for the World Cup and having an opportunity to play in good conditions with very good facilities in Darwin.
“Selection will be tough for the World Cup. We also have a training camp in Perth in October to finalise our team.”
Eddie Ockenden and Aran Zalewski will lead the side as co-captains while Josh Simmonds, Jack Welch and Jacob Anderson are in line for their international debuts.
The team flew from Perth to Darwin on Wednesday with local product Jeremy Hayward to play on home turf, in a rare thrill for the 25-year-old defender.
“Jeremy is really looking forward to going back home to play,” Batch said. “He doesn’t get that chance very often.
“He’ll be in the spotlight up there for sure. He’s become a very important player in defence for us.
“His outlet has been a feature of his game, he’s a tough defender and on top of that he’s got good drag flicks.
“Anyone who wants to see a local come good in Jeremy get along and watch the hockey up there.”
Kookaburras team for DIHO & Tests vs Argentina:
Athlete (City, State)
Jacob Anderson (Mackay, QLD)
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD)
Josh Beltz (Hobart, TAS)
Timothy Brand (Chatswood, NSW)
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT)
Tom Craig (Lane Cove, NSW)
Matthew Dawson (Killarney Vale, NSW)
Kieran Govers (Wollongong, NSW)
Jake Harvie (Dardanup, WA)
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT)
Tim Howard (Wakerley, QLD)
Tyler Lovell (Perth, WA)
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS)
Flynn Ogilvie (Wollongong, NSW)
Joshua Simmonds (Doncaster, VIC)
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD)
Corey Weyer (Biggera Waters, QLD)
Jack Welch (Hobart, TAS)
Dylan Wotherspoon (Murwillumbah, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA)
Australia v Argentina Fixture (all fixtures in local time/ACST):
Sunday 16 September 7pm – Australia v Argentina
2018 DIHO Fixtures (all fixtures in local time/ACST):
Tuesday 18 September 5:15pm – Argentina v Japan
Tuesday 18 September 7pm – Australia v Malaysia
Wednesday 19 September 5:15pm – Malaysia v Japan
Wednesday 19 September 7pm – Argentina v Australia
Friday 21 September 5:15pm – Malaysia v Argentina
Friday 21 September 7pm – Australia v Japan
Saturday 22 September 5pm – 3rd Place Final
Saturday 22 September 7pm – 1st Place Final