Home Sports CWG women’s hockey: Australia to face New Zealand in final

CWG women’s hockey: Australia to face New Zealand in final

By Anand Philar, IANS,

New Delhi: Australia hope to take another big step towards regaining their top position in women’s hockey by winning the gold in the Commonwealth Games here Wednesday against New Zealand.

The Aussies, who dominated World hockey in the 1990s and early years of this millennium, have slipped since then, finishing fifth at the World Cup last month. They also missed the Champions Trophy to be ranked No.6, one above New Zealand.

There is a lot at stake than just a medal given the fierce rivalry between the two countries — as is the case with India and Pakistan.

Both finalists are expecting a tough match that will be even more trying considering the 1.30 p.m. start.

“It will be a tough game. We know each other well and we need to take the chances when we get them. We need to keep mixing it up, more corners and shots at goal,” said New Zealand captain Kayla Sharland.

Australian coach Frank Murray felt that at this level, no team can afford to miss chances in whichever form they come.

“We have to take what comes our way. New Zealand have a good side and we want to achieve our target of winning the gold medal,” said Murray, who is to retire from coaching at the end of the Commonwealth Games.

Aussie captain Madonna Blyth said it would be a nice send-off for Murray, who has been with the team for six years.

To achieve success, both teams need to brush up their scoring skills. The finalists advanced with 1-0 wins in the semi-finals without really looking like champion outfit.

Obviously, both the camps are concerned about the bluntness at the finish and admitted they need to improve dramatically to win the gold.

“We played poorly in the last 15 minutes (against England in semi-finals). In the final, we need to play smart.

“Winning the gold will provide a huge boost for women’s hockey in New Zealand as it could mean increased funding and probably more kids taking to sport,” said New Zealand coach Mark Hager.

For Hager, it will be a tough outing being an Australian coaching New Zealand team that will be playing against his country of birth.

“It will be tough for me. I have played for Australia for 10 years. It is difficult to ignore that fact. But then, I am a professional and my job is to help my team (New Zealand) win. That will be my priority,” he said.