[img_assist|nid=3373|title=London bound|desc=Russell Ford (right) has been brought into the Australian Olympic hockey squad where he may get a chance to continue this battle with Mink van der Weerden (Netherlands) – Hockey Australia/Daniel Carson|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=147]The Australian men’s hockey team announced today that star striker Des Abbott has been replaced in the Kookaburras Olympic team due to a knee injury that has failed to improve since selection.
26-year-old Abbott will be replaced in the team by Victorian striker Russell Ford, 28, who was informed yesterday of the coaching team’s decision.
Ric Charlesworth said today it was the hardest decision he has ever had to make during his distinguished coaching career.
“Des is a walk up start, if his game is uncompromised, he is one of the world’s most brilliant players but the progressive knee injury has interfered in his game,” he said.
“This is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my time, we acknowledge what Des, at his best, can be but given the circumstances we felt Russell Ford was the better option.”
Charlesworth admitted Ford had been desperately unlucky to miss selection in the first place, after a stellar season and said it had been heartbreaking to leave him out, after he had also missed selection for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“He has had his disappointments and for that he has truly earned his spot,” Charlesworth said.
“Russell is also a brilliant player, he has terrific ball skills, he’s an endurance athlete, he has speed and the ability to score goals.”
While Ford is elated he has finally realised his sporting dream, his thoughts are with Abbott who is one of his best mates.
“I feel for Des, we started our journey together moving over to the Australian Institute of Sport in Perth in 2005 and we were both homesick, as he was the only player from the Northern Territory and I was the only one from Victoria,” he said.
“We are really close friends and I have spoken to him and he is happy for me and all I hope is we all do him proud in London.”
Ford has had an outstanding season and was optimistic around selection.
“I just set myself a goal 12 months ago that if I played the best I possibly could and I still missed out, I’d be happy with that,” he said.
“I knew the squad was so tight that it could have gone either way.”