HWC2018: Emily Smith happy with Hockeyroos' improvement
Photo Credits : Hockey Australia

Hockeyroos captain Emily Smith says the side’s performance in Sunday morning’s (AEST) 1-1 draw with New Zealand was a step forward as they plan towards to the 2018 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals.

Australia secured their spot straight into the last eight by finishing top of Pool D thanks to the draw, leaving Belgium and New Zealand in second and third respectively and sending them into the cross-over play-offs.

The Hockeyroos will on Thursday (5:15am AEST) play the winner of the New Zealand-Argentina play-off due to take place on Tuesday morning (5:15am AEST).

Australia’s pool campaign started with a 3-2 win over Japan, before a 0-0 draw with Belgium and the 1-1 draw with the Black Sticks.

“I think it was an improvement from last game,” Smith said about the New Zealand clash.

“We knew it was going to have to be a bit of a fight. We play this team more than any other team at this tournament.”Australia and New Zealand had met seven times in the past 12 months heading into the clash, with the Hockeyroos winning five of those encounters.

However, the Black Sticks, who knocked Australia out of the 2016 Rio Olympics, flexed their muscle in the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match in April, winning 4-1 and Smith was enthused by the Hockeyroos’ ability to keep New Zealand’s quiet in front of goal.

“We knew what they’d bring and they knew what we’d bring,” said Smith, who scored the equalising goal on her 26th birthday against the Black Sticks.

“It was a very end-to-end game with a lot of opportunities for both teams.

“I think defensively to be able to hold them to one goal is something I’m really proud of.”

Smith also offered praise to goalkeeper Rachael Lynch and veteran defender Jodie Kenny, who played their part at the back.

“We’ve got a world class goalkeeper in Rachael Lynch and she keeps us in a lot of games,” Smith said.

“To be able to play off her pads and attack back at them was a standout for us today.”

On Kenny, Smith added: “It’s great to have her back in the team. She’s here with her son and that’s giving her inspiration to go out there.

“She really wants to show women in general that they can do whatever they want. You wouldn’t even be able to tell she’s had a baby.

“She’s playing like she did in her prime. That’s a credit to all the work she’s put in since having Harry.”

Smith, as well as coach Paul Gaudoin, was happy with the side’s ability to quell the influence of New Zealand captain Stacey Michelsen too.

“We know she’s probably one of the best players at this tournament,” Smith said.

“Our press was set up around her and trying to deny her as much ball as possible. You did see the four or five times she did get it, she can go end-to-end.

“She made me look like a witch’s hat at times. The girls in the midfield did a wonderful job. It’s about denying her the ball and running with her as long as we could.”

Australia will find out their quarter-final opponents, either New Zealand again or Argentina, on Tuesday morning (AEST).

Australia’s Women’s Hockey World Cup Schedule (all times AEST):

Sunday 22 July 5am – Australia 3 def Japan 2
Tuesday 24 July 11pm – Australia 0 drew with Belgium 0
Sunday 29 July 5am – Australia 1 drew with New Zealand 1
Monday/Tuesday 30/31 July TBC – Playoffs
Wednesday/Thursday 1/2 August TBC – Quarter-finals
Saturday 4 August TBC – Semi-finals
Sunday/Monday 5/6 August 11pm/1:30am – Bronze medal/Gold medal match

Australia’s Women’s Hockey World Cup team:
Athlete (Hometown, State)
Jocelyn Bartram (Albury, NSW)
Kristina Bates (Port Melbourne, VIC)
Edwina Bone (Orange, NSW) *Plays for ACT
Kalindi Commerford (Mollymook, NSW) *Plays for ACT
Madison Fitzpatrick (Cabarita Beach, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Emily Hurtz (Sydney, NSW) *Plays for VIC
Jodie Kenny (Wamuran, QLD)
Stephanie Kershaw (Townsville, QLD)
Rachael Lynch (Warrandyte, VIC)
Ambrosia Malone (Burleigh, QLD)
Karri McMahon (Berri, SA)
Georgina Morgan (Armidale, NSW)
Kaitlin Nobbs (Newington, NSW)
Brooke Peris (Darwin, NT)
Kathryn Slattery (South Stirling, WA)
Emily Smith (Crookwell, NSW)
Grace Stewart (Gerringong, NSW)
Renee Taylor (Everton Park, QLD)

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