The beginning of a new and exciting era for the Hockeyroos has begun, with the three time Olympic champions launching the 2009 Samsung Women’s Champions Trophy at Bondi Beach.
Sydney, the city in which the Hockeyroos won their last Olympic gold medal, will bare witness to a ‘new wave’ of Hockeyroos, with hockey’s biggest women’s annual tournament taking place in the Harbour City from 11-19 July 2009.
The Champions Trophy is hockey’s most prestigious annual international event. Unique to any other major competition, the Champions Trophy comprises the top six-ranked teams in world hockey.
Today the Hockeyroos’ next generation of stars, Casey Eastham, Kate Hollywood and Kobie McGurk were joined by Hockeyroos coach Frank Murray at the famous Bondi Beach, one of Sydney’s most recognizable backdrops, to formally launch the tournament.
While this gave the players an opportunity to soak up the Bondi sun, it also symbolized the arrival of the ‘next wave’ of Hockeyroo players who will form the driving force for the team’s bid to win a fourth gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Following the retirements of key players such as Angie Lambert (nee Skirving), Melanie Wells (nee Twitt), Rachel Imison and Sarah Young (nee Taylor), McGurk, Eastham and Hollywood will form the nucleus for the teams next Olympic campaign.
Having achieved some impressive results throughout the last Olympiad, the Hockeyroos are still established in the top group of teams around the world. During the last four years the Hockeyroos competed in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Games playing a total of 19 games for 15 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses. Both losses came against the Netherlands (1 - 3 in the final of the World Cup and 1 - 2 in a round game in Beijing) with the Netherlands eventually going on to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Hockeyroos coach Frank Murray says the results achieved throughout the last Olympiad confirm that the team is highly regarded, with the challenge now for the new era to continue to improve and take the next step of forcing their way back to the very top of the world.
“We are in the top group of countries as indicated by the results at major tournaments throughout the last Olympiad where we only lost two games, both to the Netherlands who won gold in Beijing. Now we must work hard to get to the top of the group, and the 2009 Champions Trophy is the beginning of that,” said Murray.
As the first major international tournament since the Beijing Olympics, Murray says he has no doubt several players will look forward to proving they are still a world class team at the 2009 Champions Trophy.
“Having only lost one game in Beijing – to eventual gold medalists the Netherlands – we are intent on looking forward. The Champions Trophy will give us our first opportunity since Beijing to consolidate our position in the top group of teams and continue to work back to the top,” said Murray.
Sydney Olympic Park and the 2000 Sydney Olympics ultimately represents the last time the Hockeyroos tasted Olympic success after the team won it’s third gold medal.
Hockeyroo defender Kobie McGurk said it is fitting to return to Sydney, the place where the old era finished, in an attempt to begin the challenge of becoming a powerhouse.
“It is very symbolic that our bid to take the next step and once again become a world force will take place at the same venue where ultimately the golden era for the Hockeyroos ended. In a way we have gone full circle and will begin our next Olympic campaign in the same place where we last tasted Olympic gold,” said McGurk.
Hockeyroo midfielder Kate Hollywood says she is enthusiastic for the current team to begin their own successful era.
“We all know how great the Hockeyroos have been and the reputation they have for winning. It has created a big shadow for us to fill, and while every current player respects how successful they were, we want to form our own identity and create our own history. The tournament looms as the beginning of a new era for the Hockeyroos,” said Hollywood.
The Hockeyroos will look to make the most of their home ground advantage as they take on the likes of Argentina, China, England, Germany and the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalists, the Netherlands.
Whilst not traditional rivals, the Hockeyroos will be eager to match up against China in particular.
Despite finishing on the same points as China at the Beijing Olympics, China prevented the Hockeyroos from advancing to the Semi Finals due to a higher goal difference. Creating further rivalry is the fact that the Hockeyroos drew with China in the final round, with the draw enough for China to advance.
19 year old Hockeyroo midfielder Casey Eastham saying she is looking forward to beginning the new era for the Hockeyroos on home soil.
“We have had quite a few retirements since the Beijing Olympics, and although we narrowly missed playing in the semi-finals in Beijing on goal difference, we have now put that disappointment behind us. We are already focusing on the next Olympic cycle. It is very exciting to start that process and begin a new journey on home soil,” said Eastham.
Coincidently, the ABN AMRO Men’s 2009 Champions Trophy will also be held in Australia, with the Kookaburras hosting the world’s best hockey nations in Melbourne from 28 November – 6 December.
With no Olympic Games or World Cup events to be held in 2009, these two Champions Trophy events will be the most important hockey tournaments on the 2009 calendar. Hockey Australia Chief Executive Mark Anderson says hosting both of hockey’s most important annual events creates an exciting opportunity to increase hockey’s presence on the Australian sporting landscape.
“This will be our opportunity to showcase how great our sport is on a mainstream level, and as such I implore each and every hockey supporter to show their support for these events and our teams. It truly will be the beginning of a new era for hockey both on and off the field. To have the best teams in the world coming to Sydney in what will be the first major international hockey event since the 2003 Sydney Champions Trophy is a great coup for both Sydney and Australia overall.
Sydney is a world class city, so it makes perfect sense for the city to host a world class sport such as hockey in what will be the biggest women’s international hockey event of 2009. It is extremely exciting to have such world class hockey played on home soil, and I encourage all sports fans, whether you have a background in hockey or not, to take advantage of this rare opportunity and enjoy some world class entertainment,” said Anderson.
Source: Hockey Australia