Hockey World Cup 2018: Australia on a roll

Australia has won the Hockey World League in Bhubaneswar in 2017 and gold medals at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the Commonwealth Games at home and the Champions Trophy this year and will look to continue its form at the Hockey World Cup 2018.

Australia joint captain Eddie Ockenden (centre).   -  Getty Images

The Kookaburras are in red-hot form. After a disappointing 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the team has returned strongly, winning the Hockey World League in Bhubaneswar in 2017 and gold medals at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the Commonwealth Games at home and the Champions Trophy this year.

With two experienced campaigners as joint captains — Eddie Ockenden (332 caps) played in the last two editions, while Aran Zalewski (156) competed in 2014 — and six players with more than 100 international appearances, Australia is well and truly equipped to retain its crown.

A celebrated former player, coach Colin Batch is optimistic of the team’s chances, but is not taking anything for granted. “We’re very excited about the team we’ve selected. It’s always competitive, but it’s also about having runs on the board.” said Batch, who took charge in December 2016.

Australia co-captian Aran Zalewski.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

 

Batch insisted that the tournament is wide open, as evidenced by some shock results at the Women’s World Cup in London earlier his year. “Ireland, England and China are all going to be tough. Overall it’s going to be a very difficult World Cup. We saw that in the Women’s World Cup where a number of teams missed out on the quarterfinals and some really good teams were knocked out in the quarterfinal stage,” he said. “I expect the men’s competition to be very similar. Every match counts. It’s going to be tough.”

Batch said he will not succumb to pressure, given the fact the team has done really well this year.

On the new concept of appointing two captains, Batch was all praise for the duo. “Aran and Eddie have done a great job leading the team and we’re going to continue with that. They complement each other on their qualities. We see some great on-field leadership but also strong off-field leadership,” said Batch, who was part of the Australian team that won the Champions Trophy four consecutive times and the Word Cup in 1986.

Squad: Daniel Beale, Timothy Brand, Andrew Charter, Tom Craig, Matthew Dawson, Blake Govers, Jake Harvie, Jeremy Hayward, Tim Howard, Tyler Lovell, Trent Mitton, Eddie Ockenden, Flynn Ogilvie, Matthew Swann, Corey Weyer, Jake Whetton, Dylan Wotherspoon and Aran Zalewski.