Fresh off being crowned inaugural FIH Pro League Champions, the Kookaburras’ attention has turned to September’s Olympic qualifiers.
The Kookaburras returned to training after a three week break and the hard work has started again in preparation for what Head Coach Colin Batch states is the team’s most important tournament of the year.
The Oceania Cup, which doubles as the qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, will see the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos take on New Zealand in a best-of-three series in Rockhampton from 5-8 September.
Kookaburras forward Trent Mitton says the vibe among the Kookaburras squad since training resumed has been particularly upbeat, which is more than understandable after their success in the Pro League and world number one ranking.
“You never mind coming back to training after a really good win overseas,” said Mitton.
“The three week break we had just seemed to disappear. We still had a running program to do during the break and it seemed we were back at training pretty quickly.
“We’re happy to be back. It was a pretty tough first week, there are a few sore bodies around the place but we’ll get into the swing of things pretty soon.”
Many of the players took the opportunity for some down time to head back to their home states, visit family and recharge and refresh themselves both physically and mentally.
“I think being refreshed mentally is really important and something we think of pretty highly in our program,” said Mitton.
“It’s important to have those rest periods so that when you are training you’re at a really high level and really focussed.”
There was added reason for the Kookaburras to have a spring in their step for what would generally be a normal gym session.
The realisation that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are less than a year away was made extra pertinent following a visit by a delegation from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), including AOC Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman.
The AOC presence at the Western Australia Institute of Sport (WAIS) provided an exciting Olympic buzz as both the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos squads were fitted for uniforms, had head shots taken and took part in interviews and filming for the AOC’s digital media channels.
“It’s a bit of a different feeling when there is Olympic stuff happening,” said Mitton.
“It’s always exciting and the opportunity to meet the Chef de Mission as well was great.”
But while it could be easy to get swept up by the Olympic fever, both the Kookaburras and the Hockeyroos know they have yet to qualify for the big dance and that their place in Tokyo next year is by no means a given. First, both teams must get past New Zealand next month in Rockhampton.
Mitton says New Zealand will pose a significant obstacle and was adamant that the Kookaburras will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit to qualify for Tokyo.
“It’s always a tough challenge (against New Zeland),” said Mitton.
“You like to get excited about the Olympic Games and it being a year away but we haven’t actually qualified yet so we’ve got a really big job ahead of us at the Oceania Cup.
“We’ve got to beat New Zealand and they’re always a tough opponent. They always get up for games against us, so it’ll be a tough, tight contest and we’re really looking forward to it.”
The winner of the Oceania Cup will automatically qualify for Tokyo 2020, while the loser would participate in the Olympic qualification event which entails playing two matches against a yet to be confirmed opposition at the end of October.
For more information on the Oceania Cup visit http://hockey.org.au/OC19
Oceania Cup 2019 (doubles as qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics)
5-8 September 2019
Kalka Shades Hockey Fields, Rockhampton, Queensland
Thursday 5 September 2019
Kookaburras v New Zealand (4:00pm AEST)
Hockeyroos v New Zealand (6:00pm AEST)
Saturday 7 September 2019
Hockeyroos v New Zealand (4:00pm AEST)
Kookaburras v New Zealand (6:00pm AEST)
Sunday 8 September 2019
Hockeyroos v New Zealand (4:00pm AEST)
Kookaburras v New Zealand (6:15pm AEST)
Click here to purchase tickets.