The Australian women’s team has commenced its next Olympic cycle in the best possible fashion, defeating world number two Argentina in the Spar Cup final in South Africa.
Even more pleasing for coach Frank Murray was the fact that his young Hockeyroos team, which had six debutants leading up to the tournament, fought back well after finding themselves a goal down at half time.
Argentina, lead by 2008 World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar, appeared to be on top during the first half, showing some excellent dribbling and overall skill.
However the Hockeyroos stuck to their task, scoring three second half goals to seal the finals victory in their first international tournament since their 5th place finish at the Beijing Olympics.
Despite the dramatic turn around after half time, Murray said the result was not due to anything in particular – just a case of working harder and smarter.
'On attack we were able to get through their midfield and into their defense,' said Murray.
Defensively, the Hockeyroos were also much more efficient in creating pressure on those providing the ball to Aymar, denying the Argentinean playmaker any room to move.
The Hockeyroos equalized three minutes after half time through a penalty corner slip pass to pusher Casey Eastham, who at the age of 20 already looks like a long term player capable of leading the Hockeyroos for many years to come.
Tournament debutant Emily Hurtz also continued her good form to score a field goal while Kate Hollywood scored her fourth goal of the tournament to seal victory for the Hockeyroos with eight minutes remaining.
Murray praised his players’ determination after the win.
'Argentina have more speed and flair than us at the moment, but it is more than just speed and technical skill that wins matches, and our players continue to develop their hockey knowledge,' Murray said.
After their 5th place finish at the Beijing Olympics, where the team was extremely unlucky not to qualify for the semi finals after only losing one game during the entire tournament to eventual gold medalists the Netherlands, the signs look good for the new era of Hockeyroos.
The young team will be given a further opportunity to develop and climb their way back to the top of the hockey world at the Samsung Hockey Champions Trophy – Women 2009 held in Sydney from 11-19 July
The Champions Trophy sees the top six teams in the world go head to head. As the first major international tournament since Beijing, the Hockeyroos will be eager to perform well on home soil.
Australia – Argentina 3-1 (0-1)
Goals Australia: Eastham PC, Hurtz FG, Hollywood PC
Goal Argentina: - D'Elia PC
Source: Hockey Australia