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Rio campaign over for women's hockey team

16 August 2016

HOCKEY: The Australian women's hockey team were looking to do what their male teammates couldn't by making to the semi-finals of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

However in sauna-like conditions the side were outclassed by Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand to bow out of the tournament with a 4-2 loss.

With the men going 4-0 to Netherlands yesterday it signalled the first time in 32 years, since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, that the Australian men and women have failed to win an Olympic medal between them.

The Aussie men were in the stands but their vocal support, combined with scores of fans singing Waltzing Matilda and C’mon Aussie C’mon, was not enough to get the women over the line.

Australia started brightly, dominating the opening period, but were unable to convert their chances and it was the Kiwis who scored first through Anita McLaren’s pinpoint penalty corner conversion.

Kelsey Smith made it 2-0 before the break and although Australia’s Kathryn Slattery halved the deficit early in the third quarter, New Zealand responded quickly.

Gemma Flynn restored their two goal advantage before Olivia Merry’s low deflection sent them 4-1 up.

With 90 seconds remaining, Slattery doubled her tally with a shot into the roof of the net but it was little more than a consolation goal.

The match marked Adam Commens’ last game in charge of Australia’s iconic women’s hockey team before he relocates to Belgium for family reasons.

It may also have signalled the end for Australian captain Madonna Blyth after 342 international appearances and three Olympics.

“I think that’s it for me. Definitely [my] last Olympics,” said Blyth.

“I put everything I had into the last six months or so in the lead up to Rio, always, I think, in the back of my mind knowing this would be it.

“It’s a little bit of a disappointing way to go out but it’s just the way it goes sometimes. You can’t have the fairy tale finishes when you want them.”

She said she would keep an open mind about the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games but said: “I think my body is getting older by the minute. It’s just getting a little bit harder to do the training. I still very much love hockey, love the sport but I don’t think it’s realistic at this stage.”

Blyth said her team played well in patches but “when you don’t take your chances it’s very difficult to come back from a few goals down”.

“They just outplayed us today. They were a little bit cleaner. When it comes down to these games you’ve got to be at your best or you get punished.”

The Kiwis, coached by Aussie Mike Hager and ranked one behind Australia at fourth in the world, can now claim the upper hand in their trans-Tasman rivalry after losing the past two Oceania Cup titles in shoot-outs.

Australia’s women were seeking a first Olympic semi-final appearance since the 2000 Games in Sydney but again go home empty-handed after three consecutive fifth place finishes in Athens, Beijing and London.

Doug Conway

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