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Australian Commonwealth Games teams announced
08 Feb 2006 07:31

Half of Australia's victorious men's team from Manchester has returned for a crack at a home games gold, whilst the resurgent women's team features a strong blend of youth and experience, in the 2006 Australian Commonwealth Games Hockey Team announced today in Perth.

Brent Livermore, Nikki Hudson and Rachel Imison will become the first Australian players to represent the country in all Commonwealth Games hockey tournaments, after being selected for their third Games, having previously represented in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and in Manchester four years ago.

Livermore will be joined by seven of his gold medal winning Manchester team mates - Dean Butler, Liam De Young, Bevan George, Aaron Hopkins, Stephen Lambert, Michael McCann and Matthew Wells.

Amongst the women, Angie Skirving and Karen Smith will also play at the Games for the second time.

For the men, it will be very much a case of defending the perfect record, with the Kookaburras having won both Commonwealth Games men's hockey tournaments held to date, defeating home team Malaysia for the 1998 gold and then maintaining an unbeaten record in the preliminary matches before defeating New Zealand in the Manchester final.

Since then, the team has gone from strength to strength, including winning the Olympic gold that had eluded all previous Australian men's teams.

At 22, Queenslander, Mark Knowles will be the youngest squad member in a team that exudes experience.

"Our men's hockey team has built up an enviable record since the introduction of the sport to the Commonwealth Games, and we have every confidence that the squad selected for Melbourne has the attributes to maintain it," Australian Commonwealth Games Association CEO, Perry Crosswhite said.

"One thing that we have to remember though is that the Commonwealth contains many of the World's top hockey nations and it will not be any easy road to gold in either tournament, particularly for the men."

Australia plays the round robin section of the men's tournament in Group A against 2004 silver medallists, New Zealand, England, Canada and Scotland whilst the women also begin in Group A where their opponents will be defending champions, India, South Africa, Nigeria and Malaysia.

For the men, though, the main dangers lie in Group B where the might of Asian hockey in the form of Pakistan, India and Malaysia is present.

For Hudson, who began her Games career under her maiden name of Mott, her third Games will provide her with the opportunity of re-living the Hockeyroos' wonderful 8-1 victory over England for the gold medal in 1998 and extinguishing the disappointment of having to play off for the bronze, albeit successfully, in Manchester.

"We know that our women's team was very disappointed in 2002 but their excellent recent form in the Women's Champions Trophy in Canberra in December, shows the success of the team's rebuilding programme. To go through the first part of that tournament undefeated and then only lose to the great Netherlands outfit in a penalty shoot-out, indicates they are well on track to represent us very successfully in March," Mr Crosswhite said.

The women's team we will be relying a little more on the drive and exuberance of youth with three players under 21 years of age when the Games begin. Kate Hollywood, 19 and Kobie McGurk and Madonna Blyth both 20 will be making their Games debuts.

But despite the greater number of younger players, the average age of the women's team at 25 is just a year younger than the men's.

Coaches' Comments
Barry Dancer - Australian Men's Coach
"There are 13 players from the Athens team in this line up so we have managed to keep the main core of that side.

"The Athens group will serve us well because we had a similar pressure on us then. Although that pressure was different there was still that expectation that we were able to deal with.”

"Selections have been based on getting a good balance attack and defense. We have a number of players in the side who will be playing a different role than they did in Athens - players like DeYoung, Dwyer, Hammond, Livermore and Eglington.

"India and Pakistan will be hard to beat in the other pool, Malaysia and South Africa could also threaten, while New Zealand and England are a major threat in our pool."

Frank Murray - Australian Women's Coach
"This team has quite a bit do...we have some work to do on sharpening our set pieces.

"Losing Donna Lee Patrick to injury will certainly take some pace out of the midfield but defensively this team is top notch.

"Some of the youngsters that have missed out this time will be in the line-up for Beijing and there could be pressure on those in this team to make the side in 2006.

"We know we're competitive but we've still got a long way to go.

"I think there are four teams with an equal chance - us, England, New Zealand and India. South Africa are also the dark horse in there."

Travis Brooks, Dean Butler, Liam De Young, Luke Doerner, Jamie Dwyer, Nathan Eglington, Bevan George, Robert Hammond, Aaron Hopkins, Mark Knowles, Stephen Lambert, Brent Livermore, Michael McCann, Stephen Mowlam, Grant Schubert, Matthew Wells

Wendy Alcorn, Nicole Arrold, Madonna Blyth, Toni Cronk, Suzie Faulkner, Emily Halliday, Kate Hollywood, Nikki Hudson, Rachel Imison, Kobie McGurk, Rebecca Sanders, Angie Skirving, Karen Smith, Sarah Taylor, Melanie Twitt, Kim Walker

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