The Kookaburras’ array of strike power was on full display again as the defending Commonwealth Games gold medallists saw off arch rivals New Zealand 7-2.
It was another show of relentless attacking hockey from Colin Batch’s team as they followed up their 12 goal haul against Scotland with another scoring spree.
Lethal marksman and NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship holder Blake Govers and co-captain Aran Zalewski both scored twice to go with goals from Jake Whetton and young guns Jacob Anderson and Nathan Ephraums.
The result put the Kookaburras in the box seat to finish top of their pool with matches against South Africa and Pakistan to come before the semi-finals.
The Kookaburras took the lead in fortuitous fashion in the 8th minute. Anderson showed excellent 3D skills along the baseline before jinking the ball towards Black Sticks goalkeeper George Enersen who somehow managed to knock the ball into his own net.
But the Black Sticks, chasing their first win over the Kookaburras since November 2016, drew level when Hugo Inglis was found unmarked at the back post for an easy tap in.
The goal only ramped up the Kookaburras’ intent. With eight minutes to go in the half the Australians won their first penalty corner and Blake restored the advantage with a hard low drag flick that thundered into the backboard.
Blake repeated the dose two minutes later with his 112th goal in his 124th appearance to put the Kookaburras 3-1 ahead.
Suddenly it was 4-1 when Whetton smashed the ball home after Jeremy Hayward’s initial drag flick and the subsequent follow-up shot from NSWIS scholarship holder Tim Brand were both saved by Enersen.
Ephraums then scored a goal of the tournament contender seven minutes into the second half when he combined superbly with Anderson, finishing with aplomb into the roof of the net at full pace.
New Zealand scored their second goal late in the third quarter through Jake Smith, but any sense of a comeback was sniffed out within 60 seconds as a penalty corner variation saw Zalewski swoop on the rebound from close range after Josh Simmonds’ low flick was saved.
Zalewski had his brace within four minutes when he got the deftest of deflections on a stinging Whetton shot from just inside the attacking circle.
“Looking at the pool stage this match was one we put on the calendar early. We knew we needed to play really well to get a result,” Whetton said.
“New Zealand got on top for a little bit at the start but we were able to claw our way back and play some Kookaburras hockey.”
Zalewski echoed Whetton comments, saying the Kookaburras knew they had to be up for what New Zealand threw at them.
“A couple of penalty corners we scored from in the first quarter, not against the momentum but probably when it was neutral, swung the game in our favour and we were able to capitalise on some really good chances in the first half,” Zalewski said.
“You can’t take anyone lightly in the Commonwealth Games. New Zealand are our arch rival, we had a really tight game against them at the Olympics last year and we knew tonight could be something similar.”
The Kookaburras’ next opponent is South Africa at 6am AEST on Thursday 4 August.
Catch all the hockey from the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on Seven and 7plus.
Article and image courtesy of Hockey Australia