Australian National Women’s Hockey team, Hockeyroos, finished the Investec World League round three tournament in style by beating hosts England in the final, while Argentina clinched third place and ticket to Hague World Cup 2014 with 3-2 victory over China.
Since, New Zealand are higher ranked China (both 4th placed teams in 2 semi finals in Rotterdam and London) and Netherlands are qualified as hosts, so the Black Sticks become 7th team to qualify the next years world cup.
Highlights of Investec World League final between England and Australia.
A commanding and highly exciting 3-0 win in the ‘Ashes’ clash was the reward for their efforts, although it might have been more had the Hockeyroos not had two goals disallowed on appeal.
Ashleigh Nelson (WA) and Kellie White (NSW) combined to put the Hockeyroos ahead early in the first half as White set up Nelson on the back post, before White herself doubled Australia’s lead after good work by Eddie Bone (ACT). The margin of victory might have been even greater had Jodie Schulz and Casey Eastham not had goals disallowed on appeal either side of half time but Emily Smith (NSW) gave the score the polish it deserved with a goal ten minutes from full time after being set up by Emily Hurtz (NSW).
The result completes a hat-trick for Adam Commens’ Hockeyroos, who went into the tournament looking to seal qualification to the fourth round of the World League and the 2014 World Cup, as well as bag victory in the final itself.
Speaking afterwards, Head Coach Adam Commens said winning the gold medal was an important milestone in the team’s progression in world hockey. “It was really good to win,” he said. “This really gives us a lot of belief that we belong in the top echelons of world hockey. We played fantastically well, we moved the ball well, and we countered well. We were consistent throughout and they [England] only had one shot at goal and no penalty corners.
“It’s really satisfying to win the tournament, although to win World League round four [in Argentina in November], we’ll need to be better than over here because there are other top sides around the world.
“We’ve improved a lot over the last couple of years and I was particularly impressed with the younger players we brought here to London. And, we’ve got some very good players back at home, too. Anna Flanagan, Georgia Nanscawen, Emily Smith, Karri McMahon, Jane Claxton, Jordyn Holzberger and Jade Warrender are all Junior World Cup players, although Jade Warrender had to withdraw from this squad with her injury, so I think it augurs well for our junior team that we’ve got good players coming through.”
Reflecting on the match and the tournament as a whole, England Head Coach Jason Lee said, “We are disappointed with the loss today, but overall I think we can be really pleased with how the tournament and the week has gone. Three months ago we were slightly worried about World Cup qualification but I like the fact that we have smashed that. I think the team has grown through the tournament, we just didn’t have enough fitness to get us through today, but that will come in time. I’m very pleased with how they did; I thought their commitment was brilliant and their skill level was great.”
Speaking after the game, England’s Skipper Kate Walsh said “It’s never nice to lose a match, especially in a final, but hats off to Australia; I thought they played a fantastic tournament. Around the circle they looked like Aussie teams of old. Overall we developed through the tournament like Jason said, and as a young team going forward I think we have a bright future. The Europeans is on the horizon and I’d certainly like to go and get something better than a bronze medal this time; I’ve got five of them already!”
From the start the Hockeyroos’ high-tempo pressing game plan was clear for all to see and it paid dividends in the 12th minute when Ashleigh Nelson knocked the ball home at the back post to give Australia the lead. It was a goal from a very similar position as that from which she scored in the semi-final against China the day before and it came as the result of good work by Kellie White, who squared the ball after getting in behind the English defence on the baseline.
Some good Australian defensive work thwarted a surging run from England youngster Lily Owsley before White netted a goal of her own for 2-0. In almost identical fashion to White’s earlier run, Eddie Bone cut in behind the English defence before pulling the ball back to White on the penalty spot, who finished clinically with an upright shot on her reverse.
As the first half progressed Australia’s dominance appeared to be rewarded again as Jodie Schulz fired home what might have been the Hockeyroos’ third goal but on closer inspection the ball ricocheted into the net off the body of an England defender after hitting her dangerously high. An appeal to the video umpire by England resulted in the goal being disallowed.
Georgia Nanscawen had an early second half effort blocked by England goalkeeper Maddie Hinch before, at the other end, her Hockeyroos opposite number Rachael Lynch watched as a tomahawk from the top of the circle sailed safely over the top.
A series of Australian penalty corners failed to extend the Hockeyroos’ lead but it looked as if Casey Eastham might have done so when she squeezed a shot into the goal. However, another successful video referral appeal by England showed Georgie Parker’s tackle on Kate Walsh in the build-up to be illegal and it remained 2-0 to the Hockeyroos.
It was only a matter of time, though, and when it came, Australia’s third goal from Emily Smith was thoroughly deserved. With her back to goal, she got off a low shot around the corner and into the goal after Emily Hurtz’s pinpoint pass.
In what was fast becoming a feature of the match, Australia’s defence twice used the video referral system to good effect in the closing stages, resulting in the overturning of two penalty corner awards to help retain an impressive clean sheet as they closed out the 3-0 win.
It was a third clean sheet of the tournament for the team that has conceded just three goals in six matches in London. At the other end, their 18 goals scored was the highest tally of any side in the competition.
For Flanagan, Nanscawen, Smith, McMahon, Claxton, Holzberger and Jade Warrender, a return to Australian shores will be short lived as they prepare to head back to Europe with the Jillaroos team for the Junior World Cup. The squad departs on 17 July with Australia’s first match against India on 27 July.
The next opportunities to see the Hockeyroos in action are the International Super Series Hockey 9s in October, the Oceania Cup in late October/early November and the fourth and final round of the World League in Argentina in December.