The world number 1 Kookaburras hope to make even more history under legendary coach Ric Charlesworth and become the first team to ever win the Champions Trophy four years in a row when they compete in the prestigious tournament in Auckland, New Zealand from December 3-11.
And although history will be up for grabs, the tournament holds even more significance for the Kookaburras given that it will give them a good indication as to where they are placed for their Olympic preparation as the last major international tournament prior to the 2012 London Olympics.
Charlesworth has today announced his 2011 Champions Trophy squad and although the Kookaburras will enter the tournament as the team to beat given their strong record at the Champions Trophy, Australia will still be missing some key players via injury.
Despite the unavailability of some players Charlesworth said he is confident he has selected a team that can win.
“I think it’s a team that can do well at the tournament but it will also help us find out exactly where we are at. We will have a number of good players who are unavailable but that allows us to further develop our depth,” said Charlesworth.
While acknowledging some players will not be available, including Kookaburras co-captain Mark Knowles due to the impending birth of his first child, Charlesworth said leaving players out due to injury was taken as a precaution.
“Glenn Turner had hip surgery recently – it was more for maintenance than anything else. Part of doing the surgery now was to give him the best run into the Olympics and I expect him to be OK for when we return to training in January. With Simon Orchard we are being cautious. He jarred his knee in a recent game against Pakistan and we didn’t want to risk it but he will be fine. Russell Ford is in good form but strained his hamstring at training, Graeme Begbie is improving rapidly and is nearly ready and Rob Hammond continues to recover but was probably a week or two too late to recover for this tournament. And then Grant Schubert is still a long term injury from his Achilles surgery but we are still keeping a close eye on him. Most of these guys are nearly ready now and if it was the Olympics we would have taken a chance on a few of them,” said Charlesworth.
In a noteworthy move, Charlesworth has not selected 2010 World Cup, Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games goalkeeper Nathan Burgers, instead electing to give two younger goalkeepers an opportunity.
“We need other options so it is a good opportunity to give George Bazeley and Andrew Charter a chance against some good teams,” said Charlesworth.
Penalty corners specialist Luke Doerner will make his return to the team for the first time in 2011 at the Champions Trophy.
“He was due to come back during the India-Pakistan tournament a few weeks ago but hit his toe at training. It was unfortunate but these things happen. He has been playing well in our practice matches and he gives us another dimension but I think he is short on match practice,” said Charlesworth.
Charlesworth said that the Champions Trophy is an important stepping stone towards the Kookaburras’ Olympic build up.
“We have only been back together since September-October so we are into our third month of training together. We have made some progress in that time but there is still lots to do. We played some good hockey recently against India and Pakistan but not as consistently as I would have liked.
We will face some teams at the Champions Trophy who we will contend against during the coming months, so this tournament is an important stepping stone. Every step from now on is a step towards our final destination of the Olympics. I think at these tournaments you hope to learn as much as possible. In terms of the other teams, I don’t see much change in them, they are at their strongest right now, so it will show us where we are at,” said Charlesworth.
The Kookaburras will kick of their Champions Trophy defence at 2pm EST on Saturday 3 December against Spain.
Click below to view a schedule of the tournament:
Kookaburras Champions Trophy Squad
George Bazeley (VIC), Andrew Charter (ACT), Kiel Brown (WA), Fergus Kavanagh (WA), Matthew Swann (QLD), Luke Doerner (VIC), Matthew Butturini (NSW), Chris Ciriello (VIC), Liam De Young (QLD), Tim Deavin (TAS), Eddie Ockenden (TAS), Jamie Dwyer (QLD), Mark Paterson (NSW), Glenn Simpson (VIC), Des Abbott (NT), Jason Wilson (QLD), Matt Gohdes (QLD), Kieran Govers (NSW)
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