Kookaburras keen for early Belgium blockbuster

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The Kookaburras are itching to launch into their highly anticipated FIH Pro League opener against the team they defeated in last year’s grand final of the new global competition.

The Kookaburras will host current World Champions Belgium at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre tomorrow in a showdown featuring the world’s top two ranked men’s hockey nations.

In winning the inaugural Pro League title, the Kookaburras leapfrogged Belgium into the number one spot and the teams will reignite their growing rivalry in Sydney.

“Belgium have been an outstanding team for a number of years,” said Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch.

“They were runners up at the last Olympics and they won the last World Cup so they are definitely one of the best teams going around.

“Belgium are a great attacking team so we know we need to defend well and we know we will get some opportunities, so it will be a matter of who takes their chances.

“The fact that the top two ranked teams in the world are squaring off first up is a great opportunity for the Australian public to watch the games, whether it is LIVE or on television through Fox Sports and Kayo.”

Tomorrow’s opening match will be the Kookaburras’ first international match since 8 September last year when they defeated New Zealand in the Oceania Cup to qualify for the Olympics.

Batch says the team is eager to be back competing and has laid a solid foundation heading into an Olympic year.

“In the early stages of the 2019 Pro League we didn’t start too well but we feel we’ve got a really good focus, the guys have enjoyed the first two weeks of training in Perth and we’re heading into the first round in a much better position than where we were last year,” said Batch.

“The last six months of 2019 we didn’t play a lot of games, so it is about revisiting a lot of the tactical side of our game, the way we play, and coming up against Belgium is a great opportunity to do that.”

“We’re just worrying about our performances and to do that well we’ve got to make sure that every training session is meaningful and that we’re developing.

“Coming into the year it is like starting off again. Last year we know we had some success but by no means do we see that we’re the complete team at the moment.”

Batch and his coaching staff have selected the team of 18 that will take on Belgium, with Jeremy Hayward and Matt Swann both on track to celebrate significant milestones.

Darwin born Hayward will make his 150th appearance tomorrow, while Swann is set to play game 200 on Sunday.

“I think both of them just love playing for the Kookaburras,” said Batch on the duo.

“They are great team players…it’s a great achievement by Jeremy to reach 150 and then Swanny his 200th on Sunday.

“They are both constantly looking to improve, they are terrific around the group and I think it says a lot about them.

“It’s not always smooth sailing as a hockey player, there are always ups and downs but it is a great effort to reach these milestones and hopefully there are many more games to come for both of them.”

Meanwhile, forward Blake Govers, who was the Pro League’s top scorer last year, continues to make excellent progress on his recovery from a torn adductor, while Corey Weir is also unavailable due to some hip tightness.

“Blake’s recovery is on track,” said Batch.

“He’s very close to returning to full training and will likely come into contention after the Great Britain games in early February.”

Pleasingly for Batch, a number of the Kookaburras who will not feature in the Pro league this weekend have been part of an Australia A team that has played two matches against a Belgium A side and will play a further two over the coming days.

“We are fortunate to have these Australia A matches as it gives the majority of our squad some quality match time on the opening weekend.”

Tickets for the Pro League double headers against Belgium and Great Britain are available now through Ticketek.

Kookaburras Team v Belgium – FIH Pro League 2020

Name (Number) Date of Birth Hometown, State Hockey One Team Caps (Goals)
Jacob Anderson (9) 22/03/1997 Mackay, QLD Brisbane Blaze 19 (8)
Daniel Beale (23) 12/02/1993 Brisbane, QLD Brisbane Blaze 171 (28)
Tim Brand (29) 29/11/1998 Chatswood, NSW NSW Pride 34 (15)
Andrew Charter (gk) (30) 30/03/1987 Canberra, ACT Canberra Chill 177 (0)
Tom Craig (2) 3/09/1995 Lane Cove, NSW NSW Pride 97 (27)
Matthew Dawson (6) 7/04/1994 Killarney Vale, NSW NSW Pride 132 (12)
Jeremy Hayward (32) 3/03/1993 Darwin, NT Tassie Tigers 149 (62)
Tim Howard (16) 23/06/1996 Wakerley, QLD Brisbane Blaze 54 (1)
Tyler Lovell (gk) (24) 23/05/1987 Perth, WA Perth Thundersticks 141 (0)
Eddie Ockenden (11) 3/04/1987 Hobart, TAS Tassie Tigers 358 (70)
Flynn Ogilvie (22) 17/09/1993 Wollongong, NSW NSW Pride 103 (21)
Lachlan Sharp (1) 2/07/1997 Lithgow, NSW NSW Pride 42 (8)
Josh Simmonds (15) 4/10/1995 Melbourne, VIC HC Melbourne 15 (0)
Matthew Swann (20) 16/05/1989 Mackay, QLD Brisbane Blaze 198 (7)
Jacob Whetton (12) 16/06/1991 Brisbane, QLD Brisbane Blaze 197 (64)
Tom Wickham (5) 26/05/1990 Morgan, SA Perth Thundersticks 48 (20)
Dylan Wotherspoon (26) 9/04/1993 Murwillumbah, NSW Brisbane Blaze 86 (30)
Aran Zalewski 21/03/1991 Margaret River, WA Perth Thundersticks 183 (23)

Kookaburras v Belgium – Overall Record

Played 38; Won 28, Drawn 6, Lost 4

FIH Pro League 2020 matches – Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre

Saturday 25 January
Hockeyroos v Belgium (4:00pm local)
Kookaburras v Belgium (6:30pm local)

Sunday 26 January
Hockeyroos v Belgium (3:00pm local)
Kookaburras v Belgium (5:30pm local)

Saturday 1 February
Kookaburras v Great Britain (4:00pm local)
Hockeyroos v Great Britain (6:30pm local)

Sunday 2 February
Kookaburras v Great Britain (3:00pm local)
Hockeyroos v Great Britain (5:30pm local)

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