The world number-one ranked men’s hockey side Australia are hoping to rewrite the record books and become the first team to ever win the Champions Trophy four years in a row.
Coach Ric Charlesworth has, however, named a far-from-full-strength squad for hockeys’ biggest annual world-level event which this year is in Auckland, New Zealand from December 3-11.
Some of the high-profile players missing are co-captain Mark Knowles, Glenn Turner and Simon Orchard. But despite the unavailability of some players Charlesworth said he was confident he had selected a team that could win.
“I think it’s a team that can do well at the tournament but it will also help us find out exactly where we are at. We will have a number of good players who are unavailable but that allows us to further develop our depth,” said Charlesworth.
While acknowledging some players will not be available, including Knowles due to the impending birth of his first child, Charlesworth said leaving players out due to injury was taken as a precaution.
“Turner had hip surgery recently – it was more for maintenance than anything else. Part of doing the surgery now was to give him the best run into the Olympics and I expect him to be OK for when we return to training in January. With Simon Orchard we are being cautious. He jarred his knee in a recent game against Pakistan and we didn’t want to risk it but he will be fine.
“Russell Ford is in good form but strained his hamstring at training, Graeme Begbie is improving rapidly and is nearly ready and Rob Hammond continues to recover but was probably a week or two too late to recover for this tournament.
“And then Grant Schubert is still a long term injury from his Achilles surgery but we are still keeping a close eye on him. Most of these guys are nearly ready now and if it was the Olympics we would have taken a chance on a few of them,” said Charlesworth.
In a noteworthy move, Charlesworth has not selected 2010 World Cup, Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games goalkeeper Nathan Burgers, instead electing to give two younger goalkeepers an opportunity.
“We need other options so it is a good opportunity to give George Bazeley and Andrew Charter a chance against some good teams,” said Charlesworth.
Penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner will make his return to the team for the first time in 2011 at the Champions Trophy.
“He was due to come back during the India-Pakistan tournament a few weeks ago but hit his toe at training. It was unfortunate but these things happen. He has been playing well in our practice matches and he gives us another dimension but I think he is short on match practice,” said Charlesworth.
Charlesworth said that the Champions Trophy is an important stepping stone towards the Kookaburras’ Olympic build up.
“We have only been back together since September-October so we are into our third month of training together. We have made some progress in that time but there is still lots to do. We played some good hockey recently against India and Pakistan but not as consistently as I would have liked.
We will face some teams at the Champions Trophy who we will contend against during the coming months, so this tournament is an important stepping stone. Every step from now on is a step towards our final destination of the Olympics. I think at these tournaments you hope to learn as much as possible. In terms of the other teams, I don’t see much change in them, they are at their strongest right now, so it will show us where we are at,” said Charlesworth.
The Kookaburras will kick of their Champions Trophy defence at Saturday December 3 against Spain.
Kookaburras Champions Trophy Squad
George Bazeley (VIC), Andrew Charter (ACT), Kiel Brown (WA), Fergus Kavanagh (WA), Matthew Swann (QLD), Luke Doerner (VIC), Matthew Butturini (NSW), Chris Ciriello (VIC), Liam De Young (QLD), Tim Deavin (TAS), Eddie Ockenden (TAS), Jamie Dwyer (QLD), Mark Paterson (NSW), Glenn Simpson (VIC), Des Abbott (NT), Jason Wilson (QLD), Matt Gohdes (QLD), Kieran Govers (NSW)