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Kookaburras withstand late charge to win Pro League title

1 July 2019

HOCKEY: The Kookaburras are the inaugural FIH Pro League champions and new world number one ranked team after a 3-2 victory against Belgium in Amstelveen.

All three of Australia’s goals were scored in the first half, with Trent Mitton, Flynn Ogilvie, and Blake Govers getting Australia off to a flying start.

But the Belgians fought back in the second half, getting two goals back and setting up a thrilling finish.

The match started with a painful blow to Belgium’s star Arthur van Doren, who inadvertently received a stick to the back of the knee after slipping in front of Jacob Anderson’s path as he was taking a shot.

Jake Whetton pounced on a slow-moving Belgian defender to launch a rapid attack into the circle, the ball landing in the path of Trent Mitton who made no mistake in scoring the first goal of the Grand Final in the ninth minute.

A second goal came not long after, with the ball trapped along the baseline Flynn Ogilvie drifted into a large area of undefended space to receive the ball and get his shot away unchallenged.

The second quarter provided both teams with penalty corner opportunities, but it was a penalty stroke going the way of Blake Govers that allowed Australia to score a third goal.

A review was called for after the Belgian defender made a tackle from behind without getting the ball, the video umpire decided that a penalty stroke was warranted - and Govers finished with ice-cold composure.

A series of five consecutive penalty corners for Belgium threatened to get them back into the game, but the discipline of the Australian defence coupled with some good saves from Tyler Lovell frustrated the Belgians.

With their eighth penalty corner attempt of the quarter, Belgium finally broke through the Australian defence with a drag flick from Loick Luypaert proving unstoppable.

Belgium struck again late in the final quarter through another penalty corner, this time from Alexander Hendrickx to set up a tense final two minutes.

But the Australians held their nerve in the final stages of the match, and reached the final buzzer as the new Pro League champions and world number one ranked team.

Meanwhile, in the women's FIH Pro League final the night before, the Hockeyroos pushed the world number one Netherlands all the way to a penalty shootout on home soil, going down 4-3 after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.

In 35 degree heat, Mariah Williams and Kaitlin Nobbs scored for Australia in a match that was largely dominated by the Netherlands everywhere except the scoreboard due to some resolute defence and typical Australian fight.

With the Hockeyroos down 2-1 in the dramatic final quarter, a penalty stroke was awarded to Australia with two minutes left in the match. Kaitlin Nobbs stepped up to the spot and coolly converted to bring scores level again.

With the match drawn, the Hockeyroos went to the shootout for the second time in two games.

The shootout was also a tense affair, with the Netherlands winning 4-3 to claim the Pro League title.

Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin spoke of the pride he had in his team no matter the result.

“Extremely proud of the effort of the girls today in a really tough environment. It was a very competitive match, we had some good chances in the third quarter which was pleasing to see,” he said post-match.

“Anyone could have won the shootout…it is really important to have the opportunity to play in these matches which provide such great experience for Oceania Cup and the Tokyo Olympics.”

Hockey Australia

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