Dual Olympic gold medal-winning coach Ric Charlesworth may be the high profile face behind the Kookaburras Olympic campaign in London but his coaching staff include some of the most astute hockey minds in the world.
It may be that combined knowledge, that proves the difference between winning and losing when they take on defending champions Germany in the semi-finals at Riverbank Arena tonight after Australia topped Pool A ahead of Great Britain with Germany finishing second in Pool B behind the Netherlands.
When Charlesworth took on the men’s job four years ago, he assembled a support staff that would enable him to deliver the same results he achieved with the women during their golden eight year reign winning every Olympic, World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold medal.
In addition to former Olympic medal-winning players Graham Reid, Paul Gaudoin and David Guest he persuaded respected German coach Paul Lissek to come on board. Lissek presided over three Olympic campaigns for Germany winning gold in Barcelona in 1992.
On paper, there is little to separate Australia and Germany with both teams boasting championship-winning players.
Australia’s London campaign has been led by Jamie Dwyer, Liam de Young and Mark Knowles– the three remaining gold medallists from the 2004 Athens Games.
Germany has just six players who have played less than 100 internationals with 10 players remaining from the team that won Olympic gold in Beijing four years ago.
The star of the team is Matthias Witthaus who is the most capped player in the world with 359 games behind Dutchman Teun de Nooijer (451) and Waseem Ahmad (377) of Pakistan.
Five-time player of the year Dwyer is Australia’s most capped player with 283 Tests and 181 goals – the nation’s most prolific scorer of all time.
“You want good people around you and a mix of people with different opinions and different skills,” Charlesworth said.
However, he believes one of the most important sources of ideas are the players because they have to believe in what they are doing for the team to succeed.
“If we win gold it would be because we have the whole package in place – the result of everyone’s contribution,” Charlesworth said.
“You don’t win without gifted and talented players and our job is to challenge and stretch them by continually demanding high quality.”
”We’ve tried to play in a way that is relentlessly aggressive and creates as many chances as possible yet is parsimonious at the back,” Charlesworth said.
”Invasion games like ours are pretty simple. You make as many chances as possible and finish them, and you give the opposition nothing.
“But it’s attrition, these contests. Most of the teams we play against defend and counter-attack. We try to do it another way. But there are inherent risks.”
Charlesworth has great respect for Germany – a team Australia has encountered four times in Olympic competition winning twice, drawing once and losing once.
“They have skill and match winning players,” he said.
Hockey Australia Press Release