Thursday, June 20, 2024

Australia hockey’s Olympics prep hit by pandemic

Picking an outright winner for the Olympics just got a whole lot harder.

Australia’s build-up to the Tokyo Olympics has suffered another dent with the news that their European trip in May will not go ahead.

Whoever wins gold in the men’s hockey will of course have to play the best tournament hockey in this one-off summer. Belgium are outright favourites but the form guide has been torn up by virtue of not being able to see those players in form and the probability that what we are seeing in the Pro League not reflecting performances at the Olympics, with teams holding back on tactics and routines.

European teams will have the luxury of a EuroHockey to contend with before they taper ahead of Tokyo. For other nations, the task is a different matter.

Take Australia, China and New Zealand, whose Pro League matches have all been put on hold due to international travel restrictions, adding to the months they have already had to contend with no meaningful elite matches, bar intra-squad clashes.

The upcoming Pro League double headers between Australia and New Zealand will also not go ahead as originally scheduled on the ANZAC Day weekend (April 24/25) in Perth.

Australia’s national teams will also not travel for matches against Spain, Holland and Germany, all planned for next month.

Hockey Australia is optimistic about playing against New Zealand at some stage following New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that New Zealand will allow Australians to enter the country without mandatory quarantine from April 19.

Hockey Australia, Hockey New Zealand and the FIH are working together to bring their FIH Pro League tilt to life in 2021 for what are proving to be increasingly crucial hit outs in preparation for the Olympics.

The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos have not played an international match since March 7 last year.

“The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos have shown phenomenal resilience and adaptability in continuing their preparations for Tokyo without any international matches in over a year,” said Hockey Australia chief Matt Favier.

“This lead up to an Olympics is unprecedented and it is too much of a risk sending teams to Europe this far out from the Games.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and the possibilities of playing any internationals knowing how critical they are for our national teams.

“We are hopeful they will have the opportunity to play on home soil again before they head to Tokyo in July.”

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