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Australia announce 16-member hockey team for Tokyo Olympics

The 16-member squad of Australian hockey team bound for the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: hockey.org.au

Perth, June 14 (MNN) A 16-member men’s hockey team led by Aran Zalewski and co-captain Eddie Ockenden for the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been announced by the Australian Olympic Committee.

Ockenden joins hockey greats like Rechelle Hawkes, Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles in making appearance in his fourth Olympics, with the team including six Olympians who will participate in their second Games, and nine Olympic debutants, Hockey Australia said.

The Kookaburras find themselves currently ranked as the number one ranked team in the world, having leapfrogged Belgium after their 4-0 series sweep over New Zealand.

One of these debutants is Dylan Martin, 23, who came into the squad this year and made his international debut as recently as May 27 in the Trans-Tasman Series against New Zealand.

Kookaburras Head Coach Colin Batch said the bolter who heralds from Wagga Wagga more than deserved his selection. “We have watched Dylan closely both last year and this year and think he has the goods,” said Batch.

“He’s calm under pressure, makes good decisions with and without the ball and is a really good defender, so we think he can perform well in our way of play and on the big stage.”

Another player who will head to his first Olympics is Perth local Trent Mitton. After missing out on selection in 2012 and 2016, the striker’s patience and persistence has paid off.

Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman attended the announcement at the Western Australian Institute in Perth.

Batch said the task of narrowing the squad down from 27 to 16 was extremely difficult given the amount of depth and talent in the group.

“We have a really committed squad and of course this team announcement brings some elation but also some disappointment in the group,” said Batch.

“Some players have played well recently and not been selected. We have had limited international matches but the importance and value we place on our daily training environment is also a major part of our assessment.”

Ockenden heads to his fourth Olympics as the Kookaburras co-captain alongside Aran Zalewski and is buoyant about the team’s chances despite the unprecedented build up which saw them go over 400 days without playing an international match due to COVID.

“It’s special and humbling to join those great hockey players who have represented Australia at four Olympics,” said Ockenden.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s my fourth Olympics – I’m still excited to make it and excited about the challenge and opportunity ahead.

“We have a really strong squad – some really good players missed out on selection so our depth is huge in the Kookaburras at the moment.

“We’ve got a good mix of experience and some great young guys coming through with plenty of enthusiasm, so we’ll be confident – we just have to make sure we’re playing our best when we get over there and when it gets to crunch time.”

The Kookaburras will launch the Tokyo 2020 men’s hockey competition in a mouth-watering encounter against hosts Japan on July 24. “Being at our best when we need to be is what it’s all about,” said Batch.

“Our first aim is to qualify for the quarter finals and we cannot underestimate that. We come up against a determined host country first up who will be nicely acclimatised and very eager to perform well in front of their home crowd, so each match generates a different set of circumstances.

“We’re not looking too far past that first match against Japan.”

The Kookaburras’ Olympic medal cabinet comprises one gold, three silver and five bronze medals, the last of which came when the team claimed bronze at the 2012 London Games.

The hockey competition will run from July 24–August 6 at Oi Hockey Stadium.

The Kookaburra squad:

Aran Zalewski (C), Eddie Ockenden (co-captain), Daniel Beale, Jeremy Hayward, Lachlan Sharp, Tim Brand, Tim Howard, Josh Simmonds, Andrew Charter (GK), Dylan Martin, Jake Whetton, Tom Craig, Trent Mitton, Matthew Dawson, Blake Govers, and Flynn Ogilvie

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