Jamie Dwyer underlined his credentials as one of Australian sport’s greatest athletes with a superb five goal haul as the Kookaburras beat France 7-1 at the Hockey World League in Rotterdam on Monday.
Coming in his 299th appearance, Dwyer’s heroics only served to highlight the remarkable milestone the Queenslander is predicted to reach on Wednesday as he becomes only the third Australian man to play 300 times for the Kookaburras.
Against Pool A outsiders France, the Kookaburras were always expected to perform and in truth the score could have been greater had it not been for a combination of key French interventions and missed opportunities.
Dwyer completed his hat-trick inside the opening 24 minutes with three very different goals; a shot on the turn, a deft lob over the goalkeeper and a neat deflection, adding two more after the break.
Wollongong’s Kieran Govers emphatically fired Australia’s fifth goal into the roof of the net, with Matthew Swann also on target with an excellent individual tomahawk effort inside the near post.
Temporarily at least, the result puts the Kookaburras to the top of Pool A, ahead of Belgium’s clash with Spain later in the day. The final positions in the pool determine the opposition from Pool B for Wednesday’s crunch winner-takes-all quarter-final clashes. With a World Cup spot riding on victory in those ties, the Kookaburras still have it all to do.
Kookaburras’ Assistant Coach Graham Reid was happy with the result but admitted the focus would very quickly turn to Wednesday’s quarter final. “It was a reasonable result,” he said. “We created a lot of opportunities, many more than we actually scored. But we’re already moving forward, looking at the next game and preparing for our quarter-final opposition. We won’t spend too much time looking at the France game.
“There were some good signs there today but also a couple of disappointing things in defence. We’d like zero goals against in every game.”
The Kookaburras began brightly with Russell Ford coming close in the opening minute and France twice clearing from in front of goal from Chris Ciriello’s penalty corners. Dwyer’s opener when it came was a clear demonstration of clinical timing as the 34-year-old allowed the ball to bounce before hitting his shot on the turn with his back to goal. And he showed off yet more of the technique that has seen him voted as the world’s best player five times as he lifted the ball over the advancing French goalkeeper in the 14th minute after being set up by Trent Mitton.
While Australia enjoyed the best of the possession throughout, both Kookaburras goalkeepers – Tristan Clemons in the first half and Andrew Charter in the second period – had to look lively on occasion. Clemons’ two penalty corner saves midway through the first half kept France at bay before Dwyer’s hat-trick-scoring deflection from Ciriello’s flick. But, having threatened earlier, from another penalty corner France scored in the final minute of the first half to spoil Australian hopes of a clean sheet.
Another deflection, this time from Mark Knowles’ cross from the left, handed Dwyer his fourth to make it 4-1 in the 41st minute and just two minutes later it was 5-1 as Govers fired home a penalty corner rebound into the roof of the net.
A rare Matthew Swann goal made it 6-1 with 22 minutes remaining. Showing excellent strength to hold off his opponent, Swann, from Mackay (QLD), forced his way into the circle before unleashing a pin-point low tomahawk shot inside the left post before Dwyer rounded off with his fifth for 7-1.
Tim Deavin and captain Eddie Ockenden both had opportunities to extend the lead but France’s defence kept them out. And at the other end, with two minutes remaining, having had little to do since coming on as a half time substitute, goalkeeper Andrew Charter stepped up to save a late penalty stroke with his right foot.
Dwyer said afterwards, “I’m very happy. To hit five is nice. I haven’t done that too many times. As a team we can improve and we’ll need to play better if we want to make the final.” When asked how he could better his performance next time, the Kookaburra replied tongue-in-cheek, “score six”.
The quarter-final draw will see the team finishing top of Pool play against the team in fourth in Pool B, second in Pool A plays third in Pool B and so on. The match between Belgium and Spain will impact heavily on Australia’s final position in the pool. The Kookaburras will face one of New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland or India depending on the results.