It was goals galore at the Perth Hockey Stadium in Western Australia as the first of two men’s and women’s FIH Hockey Pro League matches played out to an enthusiastic crowd. For the respective Head Coaches of each national team these final FIH Hockey Pro League Season Two games provide a great opportunity to see their teams in fiercely competitive action. It wasn’t perfect hockey, but as the goals just kept coming and the tempo of both games reached incredible heights, this was hockey at its gritty best.
The men’s FIH Hockey Pro League match between Australia and New Zealand in Perth, Australia provided a 10-goal exhibition of physical, fast, attacking hockey for the fans gathered at the Perth Hockey Stadium.
While the score line reflects the Kookaburras’ attacking prowess, this was a far from one-sided game. New Zealand hassled and harried their Oceanic rivals and, at times, had the Kookaburras scrambling the ball out of defence.
But ultimately, class in front of goal shone through. Australia took a three goal lead in the first 20 minutes through Flynn Ogilvie, Trent Mitton and Jeremy Hayward – whose brother Leon was in the New Zealand goal.
New Zealand pulled one back before the break through Sam Lane.
After half-time, the Black Sticks added a second through Stephen Jenness before Blake Govers and Hayward made it 5-2. Nick Wilson picked off a penalty corner to bring the scores to 5-3 but then Jake Whetton and Tim Brand added to the score line to make it a convincing win for Australia.
Speaking after the match, Player of the Match, Aran Zalewski spoke of the joy of playing in front of fans, although he added he would have liked to have seen fewer goals going into the Kookaburra goal.
New Zealand’s captain Blair Tarrant also spoke of the excitement of travelling to play hockey again and what that meant to the players, but added that he was far from happy with the score line.
In the women’s match, Australia got off to a flying start as first Rose Malone and then Emily Chalker scored in the first five minutes of the match. New Zealand played their way back into the game, led by the ever-dependable Stacey Michelsen, who scored a fine goal after dribbling through the defence to fire home a reverse stick shot. The equaliser was scored in the third quarter by Hope Ralph, who latched onto a rebound shot from Rose Keddell.
The final quarter saw a lot of pressure from Katrina Powell’s team but the Blacksticks held firm in defence and the match went to shoot-out.
Both goalkeepers were excellent as the first three attackers from each side failed to find a way to score. While Rachael Lynch was good for Australia, her New Zealand counterpart Grace O’Hanlon was on another level as she saved four attempts. Goals from Samantha Charlton and Julia King meant New Zealand took the bonus point and the stage is set for a fantastic rematch tomorrow.
Speaking after the match, Player of the Match, Stacey Michelsen said: “Obviously we didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but we turned it around and brought great energy to the game.”
Australia’s captain Jane Claxton added: “We had a great start but we have to be consistent throughout the game. We have to learn how to connect and build relationships leading into Tokyo as we have had a long time without playing together.”
Australia vs New Zealand (Women & Men) Results:
Australia 7, New Zealand 3
Scorers: Flynn Ogilvie, Trent Mitton, Jeremy Hayward (2), Blake Govers, Tim Brand, Jake Whetton (all AUS); Sam Lane, Stephen Jenness & Nick Wilson (all NZL)
Player of the Match: Aran Zalewsky (AUS)
Umpires: Adam Kearns (AUS), Peter Wright (RSA), Video: Aleisha Neumann (AUS)
Australia 2, New Zealand 2 (New Zealand win bonus point on shoot-out)
Scorers: Rose Malone & Emily Chalker (AUS); Stacey Michelsen & Hope Ralph (NZL)
Player of the Match: Stacey Michelsen (NZL)
Umpires: Kelly Hudson (NZL), Aleisha Neumann (AUS), Video: Peter Wright (RSA)