World Cup Bronze Medallists Australia Favourites for Sydney Leg of Pro League
Australian women’s hockey team were not part of the 2021-22 FIH Pro League owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions (alongside their men’s team), but they would be keen to make a statement when they kickstart their campaign in the 2022-23 FIH Pro League at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre. The Hockeyroos would look to build on their bronze-medal finish at the 2022 World Cup at Terrassa when they square up against world number 10 China in the first women’s Pro League tie of 2023. The Katrina Powell-coached Aussie side can revive memories of their big win over China when the two teams had last met at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics (Australia won 6-0).
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Australia have a rich aura of experience in their ranks – skipper Brooke Peris would spearhead the forwardline alongside the likes of Mariah Williams and Grace Stewart – the trio have a collective international experience of close to 400 internationals – youngster Rebecca Greiner and Ambrosia Malone would seek to offer adequate support upfront.
Hockeyroos’ most capped player – Jane Claxton (208 caps) will man the midfield along with equally competent Renee Taylor, Stephanie Kershaw and Amy Lawton. Drag-flicker Madison Fitzpatrick and Kaitlin Nobbs (daughter of former Indian men team coach Michael Nobbs) will be shouldering the deep defence responsibilities with the New South Wales and West Australian duo of Jocelyn Bartram and Aleisha Power along with uncapped goalkeeper Zoe Newman tasked with staying firm in the goal. Coach Katrina Powell has ensured maiden international call-up for Madison Smith for the Pro League campaign.
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China – coached by Australian stalwart Alyson Annan – would surely have their work cut out against the world number 3 side – the Asian side had finished 9th at the 2022 World Cup and 2021 Tokyo Olympics and 8th in the 2021-22 FIH Pro League. Chins had last beaten Australia at the 2019 Olympic Test Event at Tokyo by the odd goal in five. Of course, the Chinese eves can draw inspiration from their famous 2-0 win in the 2002 World Cup.
The Asian side would count a lot on their most capped player Liang Meiyu (204 caps) to not just trouble the Hockeyroos defence but also score goals, with experienced Zhang Xiauxue providing her support in midfield. Skipper Cui Qiuxia would strive to blunt out the Aussie attacks alongside Gu Bingfeng, who would be expected to profit from shorties.
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World number 5 Germany is the other team in the three-team Pro League mini-tournament played at Sydney. Australia would have fond memories of scoring two late goals via Stephanie Kershaw to stage a brilliant come-from-behind 2-1 bronze medal play-off win at the 2022 World Cup. Germany have always found it hard to navigate the Aussies – they have not beaten the Hockeyroos since the 2010 World Cup while engaging in four drawn games over the last decade or so. Germany are 4th in the Pro League points table with 5 points from 4 games.
All in all, hockey fans can look forward to high-quality women’s hockey action in Sydney.