Just over four weeks ago, the finest international teams on the planet were fighting it out at a truly sensational Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands. For ten of the 24 teams that competed in that monumental event, another chance to get amongst the medals at a major international hockey competition is just around the corner.
In just over one week’s time, the Scottish city of Glasgow will host the XX Commonwealth Games, a mammoth world class multi-sports event that is held once every four years. For those of you who don’t know, 'The Commonwealth' is an association of independent sovereign states spread over every continent and ocean. From Africa to Asia, the Paciﬁc shores to the Caribbean, the Commonwealth’s 2 billion people make up a staggering 30% of the world’s population.
Hockey is a sport at the heart of the Commonwealth Games movement and has featured in every event since the introduction of team sports at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Australia is the most successful nation in Commonwealth Games hockey, and following brilliant performances from their international teams at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup it certainly comes as no surprise that both the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos are red hot favourites for a golden double in Glasgow.
Just as they did in 2010, Australia men come into the Commonwealth Games as reigning World Champions following last month’s dazzling title defence in The Hague, although they will be without some key personnel in their attempt to win fifth consecutive Commonwealth Gold medal. Legendary coach Ric Charlesworth, classy defender Liam de Young and midfield general Rob Hammond have all confirmed their retirements in recent weeks and their influence both on and off the field will be sorely missed. Five times FIH Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer is also absent, but with world class talents such as penalty corner ace Chris Ciriello, creative attacker Eddie Ockenden, sharp-shooter Kieran Govers and captain fantastic Mark Knowles all selected, it is clear to all that the mighty Kookaburras will take some stopping.
That being said, the Aussies are certain to face some stern opposition in Glasgow, with the likes of Barry Middleton’s World Cup semi-finalists England (FIH World Ranking: 5), Simon Child’s gifted New Zealand (6) and Sardar Singh's ever-unpredictable India (9) among the ten nations that will challenge for the title. Australia will compete in Pool A against India, South Africa (12), Scotland (25) and Wales (31), with England, New Zealand, Malaysia (13), Canada (16) and Trinidad & Tobago (29) butting heads in Pool B.
Taking a look at the women’s tournament, much has been made of the Hockeyroos' climb up the world rankings from seventh prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games to second following their Silver medal success at the 2014 World Cup. Their status as World Cup medallists and world ranking of two rightly installs them as pre-tournament favourites, although they’ll certainly need to keep a close eye on the likes of New Zealand, England and South Africa in particular.
Since the Champions Challenge in late 2012, the Aussie women have finished on the medal rostrum at every event they’ve competed at, and anything less than a Gold medal-winning performance in Glasgow is likely to be regarded as an underachievement from a side packed with incredible quality. Penalty corner stars Anna Flanagan and Jodie Kenny scored eight goals at the World Cup, and the free-flowing forward line of Kellie White, Emily Smith, Georgie Parker and Brooke Peris are all more than capable of making massive contributions in the hunt for goals.
Australia compete in Pool B, with sixth-ranked England expected to be their toughest opponent in a group which also contains Scotland (FIH World Ranking: 16), Malaysia (21) and Wales (32). England - captained by experienced defender Kate Richardson-Walsh, who will be competing in her final international tournament - endured a torrid time at the World Cup, going into the event as genuine medal contenders but only managing an 11th place finish. However, there is a renewed feeling of optimism in the camp thanks in part to a morale-boosting triumph at the recent Investec London Cup, beating Commonwealth Games rivals South Africa, Wales and Scotland to take the title. Kayla Whitelock's New Zealand (4) and Marsha Cox's South Africa (11) are the two highest ranked teams in Pool A, with India (13), Canada (22) and Trinidad & Tobago (31) completing the line-up.
The 11-day hockey extravaganza will take place at Glasgow Green’s National Hockey Centre, a superb new facility that was specially constructed for the Games and recently played host to 2014 women’s Champions Challenge 1 event. The action begins on Thursday 24th July at 0930 (UTC / GMT +1), when the women of Australia take on Pool B rivals Malaysia.
You can keep up to speed on all of the action from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on the official event website - www.glasgow2014.com, with hockey specific info available on www.glasgow2014.com/games/sports/hockey. Remember, many of your favourite players will be posting regular updates and photos on social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram, so get searching and start following!
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