Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Hockey World Cup 2023: Australia men select five debutants for title glory

Australia have picked five World Cup debutants as they attempt to regain the trophy at next month’s men’s tournament and hold onto their world No 1 ranking.

Josh Beltz, goalkeeper Johan Durst, Nathan Ephraums, Lachlan Sharp and Tom Wickham are the World Cup first-timers as Australia ready themselves to go one better after falling to Belgium in the 2018 final.

Meanwhile Eddie Ockenden, who recently celebrated his 400-game milestone, will compete at his fourth World Cup, having been part of the Kookaburras’ successful 2010 and 2014 teams.

Andrew Charter, Jeremy Hayward, Jake Whetton and Aran Zalewski will feature in their third World Cup campaigns.

Sharp and Tom Craig were not part of the Kookaburras’ Commonwealth Games gold medal winning team earlier this year and have played limited international hockey in the past 12 months.

Kookaburras coach Colin Batch said: “We think this is the best team for the World Cup. There is a lot of flexibility in the group and there is a lot of experience there now…a lot of these guys have been through a couple of World Cups and a couple of Olympic Games.

One question remains on Tim Brand following a tendon hamstring injury and will have a fitness test before Australia travel.

“Lachi (Sharp) hasn’t had a lot of hockey of late but we’re confident with what he can produce on the pitch,” added Batch.

“He’s an exciting player with the ball, he can create for us and adds another dimension to our attacking ability… he just needs some more hockey so he’ll get that in the next month.”

Australia were in ruthless control at Commonwealth Games PIC: WORLDSPORTPICS ADY KERRY

“Tom (Craig) has had an interrupted couple of years with injury. Through Tom working together with the medical team, we have come up with a good plan for him and he only played the two games against India but showed what he is capable of.”

“His ability to break through midfield and set up goal scoring opportunities, that was at a high level. We don’t expect that from him every time he gets the ball but he is capable of doing that. A fit Tom Craig is someone we want in the team.”

The Kookaburras team will depart for India from Perth on Jan 6 ahead of their first match against France.

The Kookaburras are in Pool A with Argentina, France and recently crowned FIH Nations Cup winners South Africa.

Australia 2023 World Cup squad

Daniel Beale, Josh Beltz, Tim Brand, Andrew Charter (gk), Tom Craig, Matthew Dawson, Johan Durst (gk), Nathan Ephraums, Blake Govers, Jake Harvie, Jeremy Hayward, Tim Howard, Eddie Ockenden, Flynn Ogilvie, Lachlan Sharp, Jake Whetton, Tom Wickham, Aran Zalewski. Reserves: Jacob Anderson, Dylan Martin

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