[img_assist|nid=3520|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=220|height=146]The Australian men’s hockey team has secured a clean sweep of a three test series against New Zealand, with a 4-1 win their last international hit out before the London Olympics.
The Blacksticks, ranked seven, never troubled the world number one Kookaburras, in Cairns. Australia will head to the Games as gold medal favourites.
Australia coach Ric Charlesworth had mixed feelings about the series and asked for more consistency from his players.
“I thought it might be closer, in the end 15 goals to three, so it’s a pity we didn’t have more close games because that would have been better for us,” he said.
“But you have to deliver consistency and that was what was disappointing about tonight’s game, the last 6-7 minutes was appalling and i’m angry about that beacuse it’s just sloppy and we can’t afford that.”
The Kookaburras were flat in the opening half and it took a while for the Australians to warm up, where as the Blacksticks played their best 15 minutes of the series.
“We weren’t good in the first half, we didn’t create the quality chances we should have and the last six minutes was shocking and that’s sloth, that will cost you if you do that,” he said.
Charlesworth applauded the effort of those athletes who missed Olympic selection. “Some of the boys who missed out were terrific, their endeavour was good and they’re pressing hard for those two extra spots,” he said.
After a scoreless first half Kieran Govers converted first off a penalty corner drag flick and Des Abbott sent home a field goal moments later.
Glenn Turner then scored a sensational goal, nailing a backstick tomahawk, to the crowd’s delight before Russell Ford rounded out the Kookaburras assault on the score board. New Zealand’s Nick Wilson scored a consolation goal at the 68 minute mark.
Blacksticks coach Shane McLeod said it was good experinence and showcased how much New Zealand needed to improve, to match the top nations in the world.
“I think the scorelines were disappointing, there’s nothing that grounds you more than getting a good old fashioned hiding and losing the series three zip is a hiding in my mind,” he said.
“I think it takes a while to get used to the tempo Australia play at and we matched that intensity tonight, which is great but you have to do that for 70 minutes.
“In London if you let your guard down for a moment you are going to pay the price.”
New Zealand keeper Kyle Ponifex let through four goals but saved just as many and played well in his 150th international match.
“It’s tough, you come over here and face the Kookaburras, who are on fire and are getting 5-6 goals a game but you still make lots of saves and we’ll learn from that,” Pontifex said.
McLeod said his charge was coming of age and was beginning to understand the game better as he matured.
“Criteria for doing well in the Olympics means you certainly have to have a keeper of note and he’s certainly becoming one of the best keepers in the world,” he said.
Tasmanian Eddie Ockenden captained the side tonight and said the series showcased that the Kookaburras 28-man squad was exceptional.
“We have amazing depth in Australian hockey, we had some guys who didn’t make the Olympic team playing and it showed fantastic players have missed out,” he said.
Five time world player of the year Jamie Dwyer, Matthew Butturini, Liam De Young, Simon Orchard and Matthew Swann all sat out the series injured but will be back on the pitch next Thursday training ahead of club and practice matches.