The three debutantes named in the Black Sticks Women’s team for the recent Oceania Cup are packing their bags again – however this time, they will be taking on the top eight teams at the Hockey World League Final in Tucuman, Argentina.
Brooke Neal (Midlands), Elizabeth Thompson (Auckland) and Sophie Cocks (Canterbury) are in head coach Mark Hager’s line-up alongside some more experienced names, while there are two changes in Hockeyroos side that reclaimed Oceania Cup recently. Re-joining the Hockeyroos having missed out on the tournament in New Zealand are Teneal Attard (QLD) and Karri McMahon (SA). Jordyn Holzberger and Mathilda Carmichael are the two athletes to miss out.
Black Sticks Head Coach Mark Hager notes there is no easy pool in this tournament – the Black Sticks will face current World Champions Argentina as well as Australia and China in Pool B, while Pool A includes reigning Olympic champions the Netherlands alongside England, Germany and Korea.
“It will be a hard challenge – we will face Argentina at home, Australia is playing well at the moment and China is a bit unknown, but it is another opportunity to play against the top eight teams ahead of a big year of hockey in 2014,” says Hager.
Ranking points are up for grabs at Tucuman, with the points being recalculated following the tournament to determine the pools for the 2014 World Cup. “There is nothing in it when it comes to the rankings – it is so tight between the top countries,” says Hager.
Black Sticks Emily Naylor, Stacey Michelsen, Katie Glynn and Aniwaka Roberts are not available for the Hockey World League Final due to injury or personal reasons.
Vastly experienced double Olympian Attard hasn’t played for Australia since helping the Hockeyroos to clinch a 2014 World Cup spot and overcome England to win gold at the Hockey World League Semi-Final tournament in London in June. She returns after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in Queensland’s opening match at the Australian Hockey League in September.
The majority of the squad that picked up gold in London will make the trip to Tucumán; Kate Jenner (NSW), Brooke Peris (NT) and Ashlee Wells (VIC) are the three athletes for whom the Hockey World League Finals will provide a first taste of international hockey’s newest competition.
Speaking as the team was announced, Hockeyroos Head Coach Adam Commens said, “I’m pleased that we welcome back Teneal Attard and Karri McMahon. Teneal hasn’t played a lot of hockey since her injury but she is one of our most experienced midfielders and had a great World League tournament in London. Karri has just completed an intensive physical training block to get her in the position to perform in the heat of Tucumán. She was a key player in our defence at the World League Semi-Final and has had a heavy year having also played at the Junior World Cup. We’ve been carefully managing her load to ensure she is ready for this tournament.”
Since the start of 2013 the Hockeyroos have recorded victories over Argentina, Germany, England, New Zealand, China and Korea, and Commens believes his side is one of the form teams in world hockey.
Speaking about his hopes for the tournament, Commens said, “The World League Finals represent an important opportunity for us to climb the world rankings. There are a lot of points on offer and, by its very nature, we’re competing against the best teams – those sides around us in the rankings.
“We’ve demonstrated in the last six months that ours is a team on the up and when we play our best hockey we’re competitive with the very best nations. Our first objective is to reach the semi-finals and I believe that if we can do that we are well placed to push on from there and reach the final. Our results against the other top teams this year have been good and give us confidence. As a team we’ve been consistently progressing and when you’ve won the World League Semi-Final, as we did, you can rightly say you’re one of the top nations in the world.”
Australia will also be represented by three members of the officiating team in Argentina. South Australian Rosie Stern has been appointed as Tournament Director, overseeing the competition in its entirety, while Minka Woolley from Tasmania is one of two Umpires Managers at the event. She, along with a Dutch colleague, will oversee and assist 11 umpires including Lisa Roach from New South Wales.
The format of the tournament is the same as Hockey World League Semi Finals. After round-robin pool play, there will be quarter-finals, semi-finals, classification and medal matches.
Following the pool play, the teams will move into the crossover quarter-final phase, with the pool winners meeting the bottom team from the opposite pool. The #2 and #3 finishers will also face-off in the knock out quarter-final. From there, the winners move into semi-finals and the medal games, with the losing teams playing for placement.