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Hockey men anticipate eight grand finals

4 August 2016

HOCKEY: Eight grand finals in 13 days. That’s the height of the challenge facing the Australian men’s hockey team after their final practice match against Ireland finished 1-0 on Wednesday.

A solitary Blake Govers penalty corner strike separated the sides ahead of the beginning of their Olympic Games campaigns this weekend.

The shortened match – just two periods of 15 minutes – was a final chance for Australian head coach Graham Reid to assess his side in gameplay before Australia meets New Zealand on Saturday.

“It’s pretty much eight grand finals,” said Reid, referring to the team’s Olympic schedule. “It’s a huge campaign – eight games in 13 days – so we’ll be taking it a quarter at a time. It’s an old cliché but I think it rings pretty true in this regard.”

Reid knows the importance of starting well at the 2016 Olympic Games. With quarter finals being introduced in Rio, teams that finish higher in the pool phase will face those finishing lower in the opposite group in the knock-out quarter finals. 

Familiarity could prove to be either an advantage or a disadvantage when Australia and New Zealand meet.

“We know each other back to front, which is good but also dangerous,” admitted Reid. “They are a quality team so we’ll be preparing as though we’re playing in a grand final.

“These pool games are really important because we need to try and be as predictable as we can with our results so that when the crossover finally comes we can try and get as big an advantage in that as we can.”

Govers’ unstoppable flick into the top corner came five minutes before half time, from Australia’s third of four penalty corners.

The men in green and gold came closest to extending their lead through Glenn Turner, who found space in the circle but fired over after determined work in the midfield by Daniel Beale. Jake Whetton also shot over after clever play at the top of the circle.

Ireland had their chances, too. Notably two penalty corners in the final minutes, both of which were tipped over the crossbar by Andrew Charter in the Australian goal. The goalkeeper from Canberra was earlier called upon to deny a deflected shot with Ireland putting the rebound wide.

Matt Gohdes said the team is looking forward to the start of the Games.

“We know them really well and they know us so it’ll be a tight contest,” said Gohdes. “Hopefully we can execute a bit better than them on the day.

“We’ve been here a while and now a lot of us are keen to play some games.”

The Australian men’s hockey team play New Zealand at 1:30pm on Saturday (2:30am AEST, Sunday). 

LAWRENCE WEST
olympics.com.au

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