FIH Pro League Hockey

Australia's Savannah Fitzpatrick is heading to Tokyo in July (Source: @hockeyroos)

Wet weather and a snap COVID-19 lockdown had no impact on Australia or New Zealand as day two of the FIH Pro League continued at Perth Hockey Stadium on Sunday.

In the final international fixture before Tokyo 2020, the Kookaburras showed everyone why they’re number one in the world, while the Hockeyroos bounced back after yesterday’s heartbreaking loss.

It was goals galore yesterday, with 14 scored across the day. The men finished 7-3 to Australia, while the women had two goals apiece, with New Zealand winning 0-2 in the shootout.

Australia Men vs New Zealand Men

Australia and New Zealand served up another match of fast-faced and physical hockey as the visitors sought redemption after yesterday’s loss.

However, on Sunday, things were much quieter, both on the scoreboard and in the stands.

The Kookaburras prevailed 2-0 but the scoreline is not indicative of the contest as the Trans-Tasman rivals fiercely competed all day, with New Zealand giving Australia a headache, particularly in defence.

Despite the Kookaburras having a one-goal edge at halftime – courtesy of Nathan Ephraums, the New Zealand defence has worked tirelessly to absorb the pressure from Australia’s relentless attack. Captain Blair Tarrant and Shea McAleese worked in tandem to protect the circle from vicious, non-stop entries from Australia.

In the second quarter, New Zealand’s defence restricted Australia’s shots at goals to zero, while having three themselves.

Aran Zalewski was Player of the Match on day one, and was just as dominant on day two. (Source: @kookaburras)

Down the other end, it’s a similar story. Goalkeeper Andrew Charter and the Kookaburra’s defence did well to limit New Zealand’s scoring opportunities and hold them to zero at the main break.

At 37 minutes, New Zealand’s Sam Lane attempt to equalise was retracted as an umpire referral found an infringement in play directly before the shot. As Australia fired back mere minutes later, this was costly, with Blake Gowers making the most of Tim Brand and Flynn Ogilvie‘s denied attempts.

For his persistence in attacking New Zealand’s defence, Australian forward Tom Wickham was awarded Player of the Match.

“Good to get a few wins and it was good to get back to international action,” he said post match.

“We left a few goals out there. It was psychologically important to finish with a win and we will take the lessons out of it.”

The action from the FIH Pro-league continued on Sunday as the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras

Australian Women vs New Zealand Women

After losing on their home turf yesterday, Australia redeemed themselves against New Zealand in the final match of the extended FIH Pro-League series.

The final scoreline was 3-1, with both sides had numerous clever and classy passages of play and plenty of unforced errors.

New Zealand was quick off the mark, with Olivia Merry applying scoreboard pressure early in the third minute. From then, New Zealand locked the ball in their half, giving Stephanie Kershaw a fleeting moment to equalize, but being unable to do so. But a lack of precision wasn’t an issue for Savannah Fitzpatrick, who leveled the score for the Hockeyroos.

The wet weather didn’t dampen Rosie Malone‘s spirit, as she, Mariah Williams, and Stephanie Kershaw worked tirelessly to pin the Blacksticks down.

The two sides upped the intensity in the third quarter resulting in disciplinary actions and penalties – which was costly for the visitors. A penalty corner led to Penny Squib’s goal and a goal advantage heading into the final term.

Heading into the final quarter, both sides were hungry and searching for different outcomes. Ella Gunson attempted to tie the scores with six minutes left, but it was disallowed due to an umpire’s referral which found an obstruction.

But the nail in the coffin came in the dying minutes of the game as New Zealand pulled their goalkeeper, which backfired, as Mariah Williams ran into an open goal and sealed the game for Australia

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For the second straight season, New Zealand’s Olivia Merry was the top goal scorer for the FIH Pro League.

Speaking post match, she gave credit to her teammates.

“I think it is down to my teammates. They put the goals in and all credit goes to them,” she said

“It was tough times last year but we have to take personal responsibilities for our performances and I think over the past year we have done that.”

Meanwhile, striker Rosie Malone took out Player of the Match, relieved that the outcome differed to those in the past.

“Out of the last few matches we played New Zealand we have drawn, so it was nice to actually get the win today without going to shoot-out,” she said.

“Today our team dug deep the whole way through and we managed to get the win.

“My mum used to say ‘Just go straight to the top of the circle and have a shot’. That paid off today.”

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