Australia pick six first-timers for Olympics hockey squad

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Australia pick six first-timers for Olympics hockey squad

Perth, June 29 (IANS) Reigning world hockey champions Australia on Wednesday named six players with no previous Olympic experience to their 16-man squad for the Rio Games starting on August 5.

World Player of the Year in 2014 Mark Knowles will lead the side in Brazil, backed by an extremely powerful leadership group. The side will capitalise on the experience of central defender Knowles and fellow triple Olympian Jamie Dwyer, as well as dual bronze medallists Eddie Ockenden and Fergus Kavanagh who will line up for their third Games.

Chris Ciriello, Simon Orchard, Glenn Turner, Matthew Swann, Matt Gohdes and Tim Deavin will all take to the field at their second Games, while Blake Govers, Daniel Beale, Jake Whetton, Matthew Dawson, goalkeeper Andrew Charter and Tristan White will don the Olympic uniform for the first time.

Knowles and Dwyer were part of the gold medal winning squad in the 2004 Olympic Games and won bronze medals in the last two Games. And for these two, it will be a great moment to end their Olympic dreams with another gold.

In the last two years, Australia has held every major title in world hockey — 2014 World Cup, 2015 Hockey World League (HWL) and 2016 Champions Trophy.

“When we go to the Olympic Games as the Australian men’s hockey team we want to win, we don’t want to get bronze, just make the semi-finals or play-off for fifth,” Knowles said in a Hockey Australia statement.

“I sent every player in the squad a message after the selection memo came out. The most important message I gave was the one I said to those selected, making the team isn’t enough,” the 32-year-old added.

At 37 years, Dwyer will make history as Australia’s oldest hockey player at an Olympics.

But a fourth Olympic appearance seemed doubtful a couple of years ago, after the record five-time World Player of the Year missed selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“After missing out on the Commonwealth Games in 2014 I was thinking about retiring and for a good couple of months wasn’t sure what I’d do,” Dwyer said.

“I’m very happy that I decided to give it a crack. Even if hadn’t made it I was glad I’d given it everything. I feel like I’ve played well in the past 18 months and have performed my role for the team.

“One of the perks of playing hockey is that I’ve had the opportunity to play in a lot of great places but South America will be a new experience.”

When the competition begins on August 6, the Aussies will face trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in the preliminary round as well as Britain, Belgium, Spain and the hosts, Brazil.

The top four from each of two pools will progress to the all-or-nothing quarter-finals, with Rio 2016 being the first Olympic Games to feature the new format, all building to the gold medal match on August 18.

These 16 athletes take the overall 2016 Australian Olympic contingent to 216 from 21 sports, with an expected final team of around 440 athletes.

The squad: Daniel Beale, Andrew Charter (goal-keeper), Chris Ciriello, Matthew Dawson, Tim Deavin, Jamie Dwyer, Matt Gohdes, Blake Govers, Fergus Kavanagh, Mark Knowles, Eddie Ockenden, Simon Orchard, Matthew Swann, Glenn Turner, Jake Whetton, Tristan White.

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