Australia and New Zealand played out a 1-1 draw in Perth on Saturday in what was Black Sticks’ Dean Couzins’ 300th international.
Glenn Turner’s close range finish late in the first half earned the Kookaburras an equaliser after they had fallen behind to Kiwi Kane Russell’s deflected early penalty corner.
Australia’s last official test before coach Ric Charlesworth selects his squad for the World Cup, the match was a far tighter affair than Thursday’s 4-1 Kookaburras victory.
“It was a good, tough, tight match. We were a little disjointed but we had made a number of changes to the squad for tonight’s game. I’m never happy when we don’t win but it was a tough game and we found out a bit more about some people,” Charlesworth said.
The World Cup winning coach added that he believed New Zealand’s goal could have been disallowed, citing the height of Russell’s shot before its deflection off an Australian defender.
Despite a strong start, the Kookaburras found themselves behind after just eight minutes when Kane Russell struck from New Zealand’s second penalty corner. Australia’s best chance to level fell to Queenslander Matt Gohdes in the 22nd minute but his shot flew high over the bar after good work along the baseline by Jason Wilson.
Showing the sort of killer instinct that has seen them rise to the top of the world rankings, the Kookaburras took full advantage when New Zealand were temporarily reduced to 10 men shortly before half time. With Kiwi Andy Hayward off the pitch, Eddie Ockenden’s bravery and persistence in front of goal set up the chance for Turner to level the score. The Goulburn man needed no second invitation, pouncing to capitalise and knock the ball home for 1-1. It was Turner’s 76th goal for the Kookaburras in 103 appearances.
A blistering end-to-end second half saw both sides enjoy good opportunities to score, finding the goalkeepers in fine form. Kookaburras’ goalkeepers Tyler Lovell and George Bazeley were both called upon to make telling interventions while Liam De Young and Trent Mitton each had shots at the other end but could not breach Devon Manchester’s goal.
Speaking afterwards, De Young said, “As we expected after Thursday’s match they were quicker, keener and tougher on the ball. We both missed chances so maybe a draw was a fair result.”
The Kookaburras will now undertake their final week of training and two inter-squad matches before Ric Charlesworth names the squad he hopes will successfully defend its 2010 World Cup title in The Hague.