The younger generation of Kookaburras have inspired a thrilling win over the Netherlands in Canberra on Sunday with three debutants and three more with less than twelve games experience all helping Australia to a 5-4 win.
Des Abbott, Ian Smyth and Kiel Brown all made their debut in the green and gold Kookaburras' singlet, while Josh Hawes added to his 26 caps with a strong return to the fold and Eddie Ockenden, Russell Ford and Eli Matheson showed the class that will see them become regular members of this champion outfit.
"I was very happy with the contribution from our debutants," said national coach, Barry Dancer.
"I thought there were a couple of real pluses to come out of today. The fact that we had some different players contribute, particularly the junior players, as well as our conversion rate."
The Kookaburras certainly made the most of their opportunities, particularly their penalty corners, scoring four times from six opportunities. And while they started nervously, once settled, they played some fast, skilful hockey, piling on three goals in a short space of time.
"I thought we were very apprehensive early but then lifted and I thought we had a fair amount of control, particularly in front of goal."
Matt Naylor scored the opening goal for the Kookaburras when Liam DeYoung drew the foul in the circle. Naylor's drag flick equalling the score after the Kookaburras went a goal down early through 2006 WorldHockey Player of the Year, Teun De Nooijer's, opportunist goal from a keeper deflection.
David Guest then showed his flicking skills in the 18th minute after some sloppy Dutch defence saw them give up another PC and four minutes after that Eli Matheson scored his second international goal with some slick forward movement and a nice deflection into the net.
With a two goal break, and five minutes before half time, the Kookaburras were right on top but the Dutch side were always going to make a surge. It happened in the 30th minute when Ronald Brouwer got one back from the left side of the circle and then in the last minute of the half a Robert Van der Horst penalty corner brought it right back to 3-all at the break.
After half time the Dutch continued with the momentum they built before the break when Van der Horst scored his second for the match. This time though it was the Kookaburras' turn to mount the comeback, picking up their intensity resulting in an Aaron Hopkins equaliser, a minute later, from a powerful penalty corner strike.
In the 50th minute another well worked penalty corner play saw Jamie Dwyer flick the ball past the Dutch keeper for Australia's fifth goal.
The last 20 minutes saw both sides with some good opportunities, the Dutch with two full time penalty corners, but in the end the Kookaburras came out on top with a 5-4 win.
"We've now got to be able to back that performance up again tomorrow. We know the Dutch will come out firing so we certainly expect a tight game," said Dancer.
The Kookaburras and the Netherlands play the second of the four-test series tomorrow (7pm) before heading to Brisbane for games three and four (1 and 3 February).
Australia 5 Netherlands 4 (Half time 3-3)
Australia - Matt Naylor 8m PC, David Guest 18m PC, Eli Matheson 22m FG, Aaron Hopkins 45m PC, Jamie Dwyer 50m PC; Netherlands - Teun De Nooijer 3m PC, Ronald Brouwer 30m FG, Robert Van der Horst 35m/44m PC.
Source: Hockey Australia
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