Aussies look for redemption, eye Champions Trophy

Kookaburras.jpg.crop_display.jpg

An unexpected failure to land gold at the London Olympics is driving Australia to go after an unprecedented fifth straight title at the Champions Trophy, starting in Melbourne on Saturday.

In the first major field hockey tournament since the London Games, the eight-nation event will kick-start the next Olympic cycle as teams begin to plan for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 'Kookaburras' have an exceptional record at the tournament and with the most experienced line-up of any competing team, including 10 members of the London Olympic squad, are looking to create history by becoming the first to win the title for five straight years.

Kookaburras star and five-time world player of the year Jamie Dwyer said the hurt of losing out in London, where they went in as hot favourites only to come away with bronze, would drive the players throughout the tournament.

"It's great to be playing in Melbourne again, the team have fond memories of the 2009 Champions Trophy and after London that hurt definitely drives and makes you appreciate winning even more," Dwyer said.

Defending champions Germany staged a thrilling fightback to defeat world champions Australia 4-2 to reach the Olympic men's hockey final last August.

"We watched the game a couple of nights ago in Perth when we had a team meeting about the London Olympics, and watching it hurt," Dwyer said.

"It makes you appreciate what we'd done for three years before that; winning the World Cup, winning the Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy, and not to take those wins for granted.

"It definitely drives you. That hurt makes you want to have success and appreciate winning more."

Teams will be using the tournament to introduce new players to the rigours of international field hockey, with former powerhouse countries India and Pakistan out to re-establish themselves on the global stage.

After finishing in last place at London, India have selected a strong squad led by Sardar Singh, while Pakistan have chosen a younger team, aiming to win the country its first Champions Trophy medal since 2004.

While the Germans are reigning Olympic champions, their young squad could be vulnerable. However, the likes of penalty corner specialist Christopher Zeller will ensure they are in the firing line for honours.

The Netherlands will also be looking to continue their good form from the Olympics where they took silver, however the Dutch now find themselves without their recently-retired long-time goal scoring machine Teun De Nooijer.

England will also rate their chances after making the Olympic medal rounds, while outsiders New Zealand and Belgium cannot be underestimated following their steady climbing of the ranks throughout recent major tournaments.

In the opening day matches, the Netherlands face Pakistan, Germany take on New Zealand, Australia play Belgium and England oppose India.

The tournament finishes on December 9.

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