THE Kookaburras kick started the continental leg of their European tour with an 8-2 victory in the first of two test matches against Belgium overnight.
With the Belgians in the middle of their club play-offs, national coach Colin Batch, the Australian who was assistant to Barry Dancer through the gold and bronze medal campaigns in Athens and Beijing was denied several of his star men.
However, the contest gave Batch the chance to look to the future and gave the Kookaburras an opportunity to rediscover the goal scoring form which temporarily deserted them in England.
The Olympic test event behind them, the Kookaburras reassembled at the Royal Herakles Hockey Centre, just outside Antwerp, refreshing the squad with six new faces and enjoying a comfortable win in much more balmy conditions than they had suffered in freezing London.
Into the squad came Jamie Dwyer, Des Abbott, Glenn Turner, Jonathon Charlesworth, goalkeeper Andrew Charters and Kiel Brown, who has replaced the injured Graeme Begbie.
And it was Dwyer who made an instant impression by setting the Australians on their way when he tucked in a rebound from a penalty corner.
The Belgians, a rising force who have both their men’s and women’s teams qualified for London, battled back and showed their prowess from corners, bagging two in quick succession before Australia got their grip back on the game.
By the final whistle, Matt Gohdes had grabbed a hat-trick, Dwyer had added a second and there were strikes too for Kieran Govers, Matthew Butturini and Turner.
Assistant coach Paul Gaudoin said the major positive from the game was that they were able to score eight goals in one outing and the finishing was much more clinical.
“But we still let in two goals and our defending needs to tighten up. We need to be much stronger in that area,” he said.
The teams meet again on Friday before Australia move on to Germany for two tests. They will hope to gain revenge there for the two losses they suffered at the Visa International Invitational Tournament last week.
Kookaburras goal keeper George Bazeley has also replaced Nathan Burgers for the second leg of the tour and Rob Hammond will return to Australia after fracturing his wrist.
An x-ray showed a crack and irrespective of whether surgery is needed, Hammond is ruled out of the remainder of the European tour as a precaution.
He will be assessed by a specialist to ascertain the severity of the injury.