Perth, March 22 (IANS) As he hones in on his 2016 Rio Olympics team, Australian women’s hockey team head coach Adam Commens on Tuesday named what he believes is their strongest squad for the Hawke’s Bay Cup, to be held in New Zealand from April 2 to 10.
In contrast, a one-off Test against China here on Thursday has also provided Commens with the chance to blood new, young talent in preparation for the future.
Commens and the selectors have named an experienced group for the trip to New Zealand to defend their title at the annual invitational event.
Twelve experienced campaigners will return to the side following the China clash, including captain Madonna Blyth, dual Olympian Casey Sablowski, and defensive trio of Anna Flanagan, Karri McMahon and Jodie Kenny.
Six of the eight participating teams — Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Japan and India — have qualified for the Olympics with Canada and Ireland completing the eight. The ‘Hockeyroos’ have been drawn in Pool A against Japan, South Korea and Canada.
“We perceive this side to be our strongest group of 18, although there are a number of players that have missed out who are still well in contention for the Olympics. It’s always great to be playing against high-level opponents when they’re in the same phase of preparation as we are for an event like the Olympics,” Commens said.
“It gives us a good idea of where we’re at, and in a tournament scenario like the Hawke’s Bay Cup, there’s an added pressure to get results which form an important element of our preparation.”
Australia start their campaign against Japan on at Hawke’s Bay on April 2 followed by South Korea (April 3) and Canada (April 5). The group stages will be followed by the quarter-finals.
Australia’s squad vs China: Laura Barden, Jocelyn Bartram, Edwina Bone, Jane Claxton, Jacqui Day, Kirstin Dwyer, Madison Fitzpatrick, Savannah Fitzpatrick, Kate Hanna, Georgina Morgan, Gabrielle Nance, Georgia Nanscawen, Ashleigh Nelson, Madi Ratcliffe, Audrey Smith, Grace Stewart, Renee Taylor, Kellie White.
Australia squad for Hawke’s Bay Cup: Madonna Blyth, Edwina Bone, Jane Claxton, Anna Flanagan, Jodie Kenny, Rachael Lynch, Karri McMahon, Georgina Morgan, Gabrielle Nance, Ashleigh Nelson, Georgie Parker, Brooke Peris, Casey Sablowski, Kathryn Slattery, Emily Smith, Grace Stewart, Ashlee Wells, Mariah Williams.