(Photo: © FIH / Gordon Morrison)

Australian men’s national team coach Ric Charlesworth has announced the 2009 national Kookaburras squad.

In an indication of the strength and depth of Australia’s hockey talents, Charlesworth has replaced the seven 2008 retirees with those who have already played international hockey throughout the last 18 months.   

Despite losing 1075 games experience and five Olympic gold medalists with the departures of Travis Brooks, Nathan Eglington, Bevan George, Aaron Hopkins, Stephen Mowlam, Andrew Smith and Matthew Wells, the seven inclusions (Ross Meadows, Ian Burcher, Joel Carroll, Chris Ciriello, Mark Paterson, Glenn Simpson and Matthew Butturini) have all played less than 10 international games each in the last 12 months and will be given the opportunity for further development. 

While the inclusion of the new players brings a fresh look to the Kookaburras, who won Bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Charlesworth has indicated the squad will continue to evolve in the short term.

While the tradition is to only have 24 players in the national squad, Charlesworth says his desire is to increase the squad to more than 30.

”In the past the squads are usually 24 players, but we need to build a new group so I would like to expose as many players as possible to the national team,” said Charlesworth.

While Charlesworth says he has been impressed with the current squad to date, he is still open minded about its structure moving forward throughout the next Olympic cycle.

”In many ways the squad we are announcing now is an interim squad. They have all earned their spot, but I have said all along that my first six months as coach would be about discovery. At this stage I am only three and a half months in so this squad will see a number of additions made by the middle of the year.  At the same time a development squad will also be finalized,” said Charlesworth.

These additions will see even more youth enter the Kookaburras squad, with Charlesworth keeping a close eye on several candidates competing in the Junior World Cup in June and the senior team playing in Europe.

While the squad additions will be considered from those competing in the Junior World Cup, Charlesworth has also said other players will also come into consideration. 

As an example, despite not being in the national squad, George Bazeley, Graeme Begbie and Jason Wilson have been selected in the squad to compete on a European tour from May-June.

With 10 of the possible 19 players in the European tour having 15 games or less experience, it will present a good opportunity for the younger players to impress Charlesworth ahead of the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand this August and the 2009 Men’s Champions Trophy in Melbourne from 28 November-6 December.

2009 NATIONAL SQUAD AUSTRALIA: Ross MEADOWS, Nathan BURGERS, Stephen LAMBERT, Ian BURCHER, Joel CARROLL, Luke DOERNER, Chris CIRIELLO, Kiel BROWN, Mark KNOWLES, Liam DE YOUNG, Fergus KAVANAGH, Jamie DWYER, Rob HAMMOND, Mark PATERSON, Glenn SIMPSON, Simon ORCHARD, David GUEST, Matthew BUTTURINI, Brent LIVERMORE, Eddie OCKENDEN, Des ABBOTT, Grant SCHUBERT, Russell FORD, Eli MATHESON.

Source: Hockey Australia