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Dutch defeat spells end of an era

15 August 2016

HOCKEY: A legend of Australian sport bade farewell at the Deodoro Hockey Centre in Rio as the curtain came down on Jamie Dwyer’s international hockey career and the Australian men’s Olympic campaign following a 4-0 defeat to the Netherlands.

Up against the Dutch - the reigning Olympic silver medallists - Australia failed to find top gear in a mirror of what captain Mark Knowles admitted had been a “spluttering” campaign.

A sucker punch strike from Billy Bakker inside the first minute had the Australian side on the back foot from the off, and although they created a number of opportunities in the first period, they could not match a Dutch side out for revenge after a 6-1 reversal in the 2014 World Cup final.

After a record 365 appearances and 243 goals for his country, an emotional Jamie Dwyer admitted the overriding feeling was one of disappointment and upset.

“It’s the end. It’s disappointing,” said Dwyer of both the campaign and his international career.

“I’m upset personally. Everyone’s upset. It’s a lot of hard work from a lot of people [that’s] gone into it. It’s not the result.

“[It] just makes me realise when you do win you should really celebrate it and it does feel bloody good. When you lose it hurts.”

Australia had barely touched the ball before the Netherlands pounced after just 49 seconds. Robbing the Aussie defence of the ball on the touchline, Mink van der Weerden’s pass found Billy Bakker at the top of the circle and he unleashed a pinpoint low tomahawk across Andrew Charter and into the bottom corner for 1-0.

Up front, Australia were struggling to click until, in the dying seconds of the first quarter, Dwyer redirected the ball into the path of the diving Glenn Turner. Turner’s goal-bound touch looked destined to level the score but the Netherlands’ Jaap Stockmann denied him with a stunning save.

Matt Gohdes’ follow-up was off target as the clock hit zero.

Stockmann again came to his side’s rescue in the second period after the energetic Jake Whetton broke from halfway, while at the other end Charter denied Bob de Voogd and Seve van Ass on his posts.

The Netherlands were content to break on the counter and always looked dangerous. With two minutes of the first half remaining, and having absorbed a spell of Australian pressure, de Voogd doubled the Dutch advantage.

Billy Bakker rode the challenges from three Australian defenders through the middle of the circle before his bobbling touch took the ball to the unmarked de Voogd.

Three minutes into the third quarter and it was 3-0 as Valentin Verga turned home Jeroen Hertzberger’s pass across goal, the ball flying up off his stick into the roof of the net.

Australia continued to hunt for the goal that might turn the tide in their favour but when Mink van der Weerden converted from the Netherlands’ fourth consecutive penalty corner the game was up. Australia removed their goalkeeper for the final nine minutes of the contest as they switched to 11 outfield players but by then the contest was over.

Captain Mark Knowles paid tribute to Australia’s opponents for the way they played on the night and vowed that his side will bounce back.

“It’s a performance that we will be bitterly disappointed at for long periods,” admitted Knowles.

“You only get one shot sometimes at a big match. That’s a little bit of our tournament. Spluttering.

“We couldn’t get any real flow and today we just played against an amazing Dutch team. Take nothing away, that was exceptional hockey to be on the other end of but we certainly couldn’t get a grip on the game at all.

“There are players who will never play for Australia again and when you put one match to the side, it’s been a pretty amazing run.

“The thing we know is we will be back as a team. Some individuals won’t be, but we will and you saw it with the Dutch. They lost the World Cup final two years ago and they were amazing tonight.”

Coach Graham Reid paid tribute to Jamie Dwyer at the end of his 15-year international career.

“You’d have to say he’s the best player that’s ever played for Australia,” said Reid.

“To have longevity in a sport, it crosses boundaries, transcends all sports. He has that respect from a lot of different athletes.”

While the men are out, Australia’s women may still progress to the semi finals.

Australia’s women’s hockey team faces New Zealand in their crunch quarter-final on Monday (11pm AEST). The winner will progress to the semi finals on Wednesday and with it, a guaranteed shot at the medals.

Lawrence West


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