World number one Australian men’s hockey team have indeed hit the groove ahead of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where they would be striving to win the hockey gold for the record seventh time. The Kookaburras only returned to international hockey action in April this year after being off the international hockey action radar for close to eight months since featuring in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where they bagged a silver medal after losing to Belgium in a shootout in the final. They had opted out of the ongoing 2021-22 FIH Pro League owing to Covid-19-induced international travel restrictions.
The Colin Batch-coached side marked their return to international hockey, making mincemeat of Malaysia in a four-Test series played at Perth and did not concede a single goal in the series – the Aussies won the first and fourth Tests by identical 3-0 margins while winning the second and third Tests by 7-0 and 5-0 margins. The yellow-and-gold brigade raised their game by several notches when they headed to New Zealand to play in another Four Match Trans-Tasman Series in Auckland in June. The Kookaburras routed the Black Sticks 8-1 in the first Test before going on to win the next three Test matches by 4-0, 4-1, and 3-1 margins.
The Australian men’s hockey team subsequently travelled to Terrassa to play in three Tests against Spain, where the law of averages caught up with them when they lost the first Test 2-3 before rebounding to nose out Spain 4-3 in the second Test and winning the third Test 5-1. The world’s top-ranked side even had it easy against the Netherlands winning it 3-0 at Utrecht, before going on to win the second and concluding Test. Coach Colin Batch handed out debuts to young Victorian forward Craig Marais, attacking midfielder Ky Willott, Western Australian defender James Collins, and goalkeeper Ben Rennie. The team had a large chunk of players, who had featured at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The Kookaburras have in all, played 13 international games and have scored 53 goals and conceded 13 goals. Drag-flicking forward Blake Govers has been in red-hot form slamming as many as 13 goals from as many games. 22-year-old Victorian forward Nathan Ephraums has been a real find of the Australian outfit in the series against Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, and the Netherlands. He scored a sizzling hat-trick in their 8-1 walloping of New Zealand in the first Test. Jeremy Hayward has also stepped up to the plate, finding the target 10 times, including a hat-trick in their 5-0 win over Malaysia in the third Test. Ky Willot – one of the four debutants in Australia’s first international assignment in 2022 against Malaysia has exuded promise and could serve the national team well in the future.
Kookaburras’s Performance Stats Since Returning to International Action in April 2022
|Two Test Series vs the Netherlands – July 2022|
|1st Test: Beat Netherlands 3-0||Utrecht|
|2nd Test: Lost to Netherlands 2-3||Utrecht|
|Three Test Series vs Spain – July 2022|
|1st Test: Lost to Spain 2-3||Terrassa|
|2nd Test: Beat Spain 4-3||Terrassa|
|3rd Test: Beat Spain 5-1||Terrassa|
|Four Test Series vs New Zealand – June 2022|
|1st Test: Beat New Zealand 8-1||Auckland|
|2nd Test: New Zealand 4-0||Auckland|
|3rd Test: New Zealand 4-1||Auckland|
|4th Test: New Zealand 3-1||Auckland|
|Four Test Series vs Malaysia – April 2022|
|1st Test: Beat Malaysia 3-0||Perth|
|2nd Test: Beat Malaysia 7-0||Perth|
|3rd Test: Beat Malaysia 5-0||Perth|
|4th Test: Beat Malaysia 3-0||Perth|