Kookaburras’ character comes to the fore in shootout win over GB

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The Kookaburras have fought back from two goals down to secure an incredible 3-1 penalty shootout win against Great Britain after scores were locked 4-4 at full time in their FIH Pro League encounter at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre.

With the thermometer reaching a sweltering 45 degrees Celsius at pushback, the Kookaburras’ never say die attitude was on full display as the defending champions came from two goals down in the last quarter to celebrate the milestones of Jake Whetton (200 games) and Tom Craig (100 games) with their first win of the 2020 FIH Pro League campaign.

“It was a big improvement from last week so I’m happy with the way we took the game on,” said Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch.

“Our third quarter wasn’t good…they had three shots for three goals so there is some tidy up to do around that but I’m very pleased with our ability to come back from that situation and put a lot of pressure on Great Britain.”

“We’re not happy to be in the position we found ourselves in but it certainly wasn’t panic stations, there was still a quarter to get through and I thought we handled the situation very well.

“We are always learning and there were some big ticks out of the game, so I feel like we’re making some progress but there is always something to improve on.”

The Kookaburras had looked in complete control throughout the first half, with debutant Nathan Ephraums lively in attack.

The 20 year old fashioned three decent early chances, one an impressive reverse stick effort that tested the reflexes of Great Britain goalkeeper Harry Gibson.

But it would take a veteran to break the deadlock for the home side, a diving Eddie Ockenden knocking the ball home in a close-range scramble after Tim Brand’s sharp rebound work from a penalty corner.

The Kookaburras’ advantage lasted barely 60 seconds as Great Britain star Ashley Jackson saw his initial drag flick blocked but followed up and struck it past goalkeeper Tyler Lovell at the second time of asking.

Minutes before the main break the Kookaburras restored their lead courtesy of a beautifully worked team goal that started with Corey Weyer followed by Ephraums to Craig and finished with Tom Wickham who was perfectly positioned to tuck the ball past Gibson.

However, the game was turned on its head in the third quarter as Great Britain struck three times to turn a one deficit into a two goal advantage with a quarter to play.

A superb solo effort from Great Britain speedster Zac Wallace sparked the visitors, before Welshman Rupert Shipperley and Liam Ansell capitalised on defensive mistakes to make it 4-2.

The Kookaburras’ best chance of the third quarter saw Matthew Swann find Trent Mitton unmarked, but the West Australian’s deflection ricocheted off the upright.

With it all to do in the final 15 minutes, Craig was doing his best to inspire a comeback in his 100th game, and after string of penalty corners, the Kookaburras were suddenly within one with four minutes to go.

After an initial drag flick was blocked, the ball came to Matt Dawson who passed to an unmarked Aran Zalewski and the Kookaburras captain calmly steered the ball in from a tight angle.

With Lovell replaced by a field player in the dying minutes, the Kookaburras’ patience and persistence was rewarded when Mitton knocked home the 59th minute equaliser to make it 4-4 and send the game to a shootout.

Swann’s opening effort of the shootout was well saved and Great Britain took advantage through Alan Forsyth’s conversion from the penalty spot.

Milestone man Whetton levelled the scores up at 1-1 before Lovell made three consecutive saves to guide the Kookaburras home, in conjunction with conversions to Jake Harvie and Flynn Ogilvie.

“At the end of the third quarter Batchy just calmed us down a little bit, and especially having four minutes in between the quarters because of the heat, it gives you a bit more time to settle down and reset so that was probably something we needed,” said Whetton post match.

“We were creating a lot of chances so we knew we didn’t have anything to lose and we just went from there.”

“To be able to respond like that early in the year is pretty special…we obviously won’t be trying to put ourselves in positions like that.

“But to be able to come back and finish off in the shootout, which is such an important part of our game now and you never know the Olympic Games could come down to a shootout, so I’m really happy that we got the win and we move on.”

The teams will be back at it tomorrow from 3pm AEDT. Tickets are available from Ticketek and the match will be broadcast LIVE on Kayo and/or Fox Sports.

Match Details
Kookaburras 4 (Ockenden 19’, Wickham 29’, Zalewski 56’, Mitton 59’)
Great Britain 4 (Jackson 20’, Wallace 31’, Shipperley 44’, Ansell 45’)
Kookaburras win 3-1 on penalties
@ Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre

Kookaburras: 1.Lachlan Sharp, 2.Tom Craig, 3.Corey Weyer, 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Tom Wickham, 6.Matthew Dawson, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 11.Eddie Ockenden, 12.Jake Whetton, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 20.Matthew Swann, 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 24.Tyler Lovell (Gk), 25.Trent Mitton, 29.Tim Brand, 32.Jeremy Hayward
Unused Substitute: 30.Andrew Charter (gk)

Great Britain: 3.Luke Taylor, 7.Alan Forsyth, 8.Rupert Shipperley, 9.Harry Martin, 10.Chris Griffiths, 11.Ian Sloan, 15.Phil Roper, 16.Adam Dixon (c), 17.Ashley Jackson, 21.Liam Ansell, 23.Harry Gibson (gk), 25.Jack Waller, 26.James Gall, 27.Liam Sanford, 29.Tom Sorsby, 32.Zach Wallace, 33.Jacob Draper
Unused substitute: 1.George Pinner (gk)

FIH Pro League 2020 matches – Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre

Saturday 25 January
Kookaburras 2 (Hayward 49’, Craig 51’)
Belgium 2 (Briels 18’, Denayer 59’)
Belgium wins 4-2 on penalties

Sunday 26 January
Kookaburras 2 (Sharp 42’, Hayward 60’)
Belgium 4 (Hendrickx 13’/25’, Plennevaux 56’, Stockbroekx 58’)

Saturday 1 February
Kookaburras 4 (Ockenden 19’, Wickham 29’, Zalewski 56’, Mitton 59’)
Great Britain 4 (Jackson 20’, Wallace 31’, Shipperley 44’, Ansell 45’)
Kookaburras win 3-1 on penalties

Sunday 2 February
Kookaburras v Great Britain (3:00pm local)

Click here for a full list of the Kookaburras’ FIH Pro League 2020 fixtures.