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Hockeyroos end 9-year drought at FIH Pro League debut

5 February 2019

HOCKEY: The Hockeyroos took down world number one, the Netherlands at the opener of the FIH Pro League on the weekend in Melbourne, their first win against the Dutch side since 2009.

It was at the Champions Trophy (now replaced with the FIH Pro League) 20 encounters ago that the Aussie women were last able to get a win over the Netherlands, with hometown hero and super shot-stopper Rachael Lynch the star of the famous upset on Saturday.

Combined with a 21st minute Jane Claxton field goal, Australia claimed bragging rights for the first time in almost a decade, in a great start to their campaign in the newly formed FIH Pro League.

Co-captains Jodie Kenny and Emily Chalker were a dominant attacking presence throughout, creating several scoring opportunities for the Hockeyroos.

The Aussie side were able to hang on to the pressure throughout the third, drawing consecutive penalty corners through Rosie Malone.

The Dutch were unable to break through Lynch's defensive wall, nor stop Australia's attacking momentum, with the score settling 1-0 to the Hockeyroos.

Player of the match, Lynch told Hockey Australia a win over the Dutch was long overdue.

“We always know the Dutch will come out hard and play well," Lynch said. “We hung on. It makes a difference when you can score. One will do in this situation. 

“It’s been a long time coming, so I’m rapt.”

But celebrations were short-lived, with the Aussie side going down to Belgium on Sunday.

The Belgian side took the lead late in the fourth, finding goals through both Michelle Struijk and Louise Versavel. In the 47th minute, Belgium had secured a two-goal lead.

Ten minutes later, Brooke Perris got one back for Australia, but the Hockeyroos were unable to convert any more chances and the game ended 2-1 to Belgium.

"It’s disappointing we didn’t come out with the vigour that we were hoping for after what we did against Holland," Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin said.

“Our result and our performance, our skill level and physical effort has to be better. There was a bit of fatigue there but there’s no excuses. We need to be better with the ball and cleaner.”

The Kookaburras also kicked off their FIH Pro League campaign, facing the Dutch over the weekend.

In the nail-biting opener, the Australian men asserted themselves early with a three-goal lead against the world number three, before the Netherlands came firing back.

Kookaburras Tom Craig, Tim Brand, Eddie Ockenden, Trent Mitton and Lachlan Sharp all made their way onto the scoreboard, but each goal was later met with an equaliser by the Dutch and with scores level at 5-5, the match was sent into a thrilling shootout.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, the Netherlands reigned supreme in the shootout.

The next day, the Aussies faced world number one, Belgium and recorded their second loss, going down to the dominant side 4-1.

Darren Beale was able to get the Kookaburras off to a good start, scoring in the opening minute, but that would be the last time the Australian men found the back of the goal against the Belgians.

Kookaburras coach Colin Batch told Hockey Australia it was a tough game with Aussies needing to tighten up a few areas. 

“We hit a nice goal to start the game but Belgium took control of the game with their passing qualities. 

"They gradually got on top. Our first half was quite good. We didn’t create a lot. 

"Our third term is where they took over and were better in general skills. 

"Tactically we were okay but if you’re losing the ball within seconds of the regain you’re always going to have a battle on your hands.”

The Hockeyroos will now face China and the Kookaburras take on Germany in Hobart, Tasmania on Sunday 10 February.

You can find tickets HERE or tune into the action on Fox Sports.

Liana Buratti

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