Kookaburras co-captain Eddie Ockenden joins an elite group by making his fourth Olympics while the Hockeyroos boast eight debutants alongside experienced veterans
The Australian Olympic Committee has today (14 June) named the 16-player men's and women's hockey squads that will represent Australia in Tokyo this summer.
Australian men's co-captain Eddie Ockenden will add his name to just a handful of Australian players including Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles, who've played at four Olympics Games. The Kookaburras, as the team is known, will see nine Olympic debutants while the other six players have past Games experience.
“It’s special and humbling to join those great hockey players who have represented Australia at four Olympics,” he told the Australian Olympic Committee. “It doesn’t feel like it’s my fourth - I’m still excited to make it and excited about the challenge and opportunity ahead.
Since making his international debut in 2006, Ockenden has earned 370 caps for Australia.
“We’ve got a good mix of experience and some great young guys coming through with plenty of enthusiasm, so we’ll be confident - we just have to make sure we’re playing our best when we get over there and when it gets to crunch time,” the Tasmanian-born player said.
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The Kookaburras are one of Australia's most successful teams with the world no.1 side boasting nine Olympic medals (five bronze medals, three silver and a gold). Six of those medals - including their coveted Olympic gold at Athens 2004 - came during an illustrious two decades were they landed on podium every Games.
However, at Rio 2016, the team recorded their lowest finish since Rome 1960 (sixth place). While the inaugural Pro League season winners from 2019 want to return to the podium at Tokyo 2020, they're trying not to look to far ahead as they face host nation Japan in their first match.
“Being at our best when we need to be is what it’s all about,” said Kookaburra's head coach Colin Batch. “Our first aim is to qualify for the quarter-finals and we cannot underestimate that."
After a year without international competition, the Kookaburras made a 4-0 series sweep against New Zealand, who they will face in their group matches at Tokyo 2020 in 2021, during the Trans-Tasman Series.
Meanwhile, the Australian women's hockey squad, nicknamed the Hockeyroos, boast a squad that balances experience and youth with Emily Chalker set to compete in her third Games alongside seven players with Olympic experience. Eight players will make their Olympic debut including Kaitlin Nobbs, who comes from an Olympic family with her mother (Seoul 1988 gold), father (Los Angeles 1984) and uncle (Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1996) all representing Australia.
Australia's most capped goalkeeper Rachael Lynch also made selection after originally being dropped from the national team in December 2020.
Head coach Katrina Powell, who replaced Paul Gaudoin after he stepped down from his role in March 2021, believes there is a lot to be excited about with today's squad announcement.
“There is a lot of talent in this group - a lot of potential, drive, enthusiasm and passion, so if we can harness all of that in what will be really tough conditions in Tokyo, you never know what can happen,” said the two-time Olympic champion.
The team will also be supported by the experience of Assistant Coach Katie Allen, who won gold at Sydney 2000 with the Hockeyroos - that was the last time they won a medal at Olympic level.
“Given the matches we’ve just played against New Zealand and the different combinations on the field in each game, coupled with the team doing well is an indicator of how difficult it was to pick this team. To have those names on the sheet makes Tokyo very real and I’m really excited about the opportunity that’s ahead of us,” Powell added.
Much like their male counterparts, the Hockeyroos also suffered their equal lowest finish at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 - also sixth place. The current world no. 4's have three Olympic gold medals to their name - Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
But if recent results are anything to go by, their win over New Zealand in the Trans-Tasman series earlier this month provides belief the Hockeyroos have the ability to push for their return to the podium.
“All of the games in the series were really tight so the fact that tonight was a must win in a finals type situation, it was really pleasing to see the character, determination and work ethic of the players to get the job done,” Powell told Hockey Australia after the win.
“We have been using the term that players were ‘picking up the baton’ from the ones that have passed it on from the game before, so the progress that has been made has shown that they are all on board with the way we want to play.”
The Kookaburra's are in Group A alongside Argentina, India, New Zealand, Spain and hosts Japan, while the Hockeyroos are in Group B with Argentina, People's Republic of China, New Zealand, Spain and Japan.
Both teams will continue their Olympic preparations with their double-header matches against New Zealand on 26-27 June in Perth. It is set to be the teams’ last on Australian soil before Tokyo 2020.