The Australian men’s team to compete in the Good Luck Beijing tournament has been announced with national coach, Barry Dancer, looking to gain as much as he can twelve months out from Australia's gold medal defense.
While the test event will be used to research the conditions and environment that the Kookaburras will face in 2008, Dancer isn't getting ahead of himself, with the Olympic Champions needing to qualify first.
Both the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos will compete in the 2007 Oceania Qualifiers, in Buderim Queensland, from 11-16 September with the top two women's teams qualifying for Beijing, while only the top men's team will go through.
While the Kookaburras will be favorites for the tournament (competing against Papua New Guinea and New Zealand), they only play each team once which means the game against New Zealand becomes crucial.
"Certainly our major focus right now is beating New Zealand in Buderim," said Dancer.
"That, to me, is a major threat and certainly a major hurdle we need to get past...Whilst we're going to this test event in Beijing to explore the conditions and facilities and the organization of Beijing's Olympic Games, the primary focus right there will be getting the squad ready for Buderim."
The "Good Luck Beijing" test event, in Beijing from 8-13 August, will be the perfect place to prepare the Kookaburras for Buderim, with some tough competition in the four-nation invitational tournament. Australia will face Malaysia, Pakistan and China in preliminary matches before the top two play off for the gold medal on Monday night.
While the Kookaburras will be looking to play in that match, Dancer will be using the tournament to gather as much data as possible for twelve months time.
We're planning at the moment to have some physiologists with us as well as our medical staff for testing on respiration and some of the training conditions. Our ability to play and the demands on the players in those playing conditions will be assessed by those sports science and sports medicine staff and that will help us understand a bit more about what we can and can't do in those conditions and maybe the limitations on what those playing conditions place on our way of playing."
For the Kookaburras they'll be looking to continue some of the good form they showed on their recent European tour, particularly the form during their last three matches against Spain.
"I thought it was a good tour, it was very encouraging, particularly the way we finished with the three wins against Spain. The group came away with a positive frame of mind, encouraged by the performances we'd shown, particularly in those last few matches."
While the team is performing well, they have a large hole to fill after striker, Michael McCann announced his retirement from international hockey on the tour.
"He's been a terrific player and has been the heart of that team for the last six or seven years, there was a fair bit of emotion from within the group when he announced his retirement, his absence will have some impact for some time to come."
The team will depart for Beijing on Friday 3 August.
Kookaburras team for Beijing test event:
Stephen Lambert (QLD), Nathan Burgers (ACT), Matthew Wells (TAS), Aaron Hopkins (WA), Bevan George (WA), Josh Hawes (ACT), Dean Butler (QLD), David Guest (TAS), Brent Livermore (NSW), Rob Hammond (QLD), Jamie Dwyer (QLD), Nathan Eglington (QLD), Liam DeYoung (QLD), Andrew Smith (VIC), Travis Brooks (VIC), Eddie Ockenden (TAS), Matt Naylor (NSW), Grant Schubert (SA)
Source: Hockey Australia
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