Hockey Australia has announced its 18-member Kookaburras team which will compete at the upcoming 2018 FIH Men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
The team includes four Western Australians with Trent Mitton and Jake Harvie set to compete in their first World Cup, where they will be joined by goal keeper Tyler Lovell and Aran Zalewski – who will co-captain the team in tandem with Tasmanian Eddie Ockenden.
World number one Australia heads into the tournament having won the past two World Cups in 2010 and 2014.
The Kookaburras are pooled against England (ranked seventh), Ireland (10th) and China PR (17th) for the World Cup which runs from 28 November to 16 December.
Kookaburras head coach Colin Batch said: "We're very excited about the team we've selected, it's always competitive but it's also about having runs on the board.
"We’ve taken in to account a lot of tournaments. More recently the Darwin International Hockey Open (DIHO) and the Australian Hockey League (AHL) performances.
"We do see the players regularly in our daily training environment and that tells us a lot about consistency and that’s what we’re looking for.”
There are few changes from the DIHO team, with AHL top scorer Blake Govers returning to the team and Trent Mitton both returning after missing the September event due to injury.
There are six players from the Queensland Blades side which won the AHL title on Sunday, including Gold Coast’s Corey Weyer who was named Player of the Final.
"We’re pleased with the way Corey has developed this year,” Batch said. "It’s his first year in the squad. He’s relocated to Perth, knuckled down and made some good choices.”
Batch added that the Men’s World Cup was wide open, as evidenced by some shock results at the Women’s World Cup earlier this year.
"Ireland, England and China are all going to be tough,” Batch said.
"Overall it’s going to be a very difficult World Cup. We saw that in the Women’s World Cup where a number of teams missed out on the quarter-finals and some really good teams were knocked out in the quarter-final stage.
"I expect the men’s competition to be very similar. Every match counts. It’s going to be tough.”
The Kookaburras are the reigning champions, the current World League, Champions Trophy and Commonwealth Games holders and the current world number one, but Batch said they weren’t feeling the pressure of expectation.
"You create your own pressure and intensity,” Batch said. "Everyone who goes to a World Cup has an expectation to win which is healthy and we’re no different.
"It’s a different group than what we had at the previous two World Cups. We can only control the things that we can. We did that successfully at the Commonwealth Games where we performed on the big stage. We’ll carry through that experience.”
Aran Zalewski and Eddie Ockenden will again lead the team as co-captains.
"Aran and Eddie have done a great job leading the team and we’re going to continue with that,” Batch said.
"They complement each other on their qualities. We see some great on-field leadership but also strong off-field leadership.”
The Kookaburras are due to depart for India on Friday 23 November, ahead of their opening game against Ireland on Friday 30 November from 9:30pm (AEDT). All matches will be televised LIVE on FOX SPORTS.
Kookaburras 18-member team for the World Cup:
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD)
Timothy Brand (Chatswood, NSW)
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT)
Tom Craig (Lane Cove, NSW)
Matthew Dawson (Killarney Vale, NSW)
Blake Govers (Wollongong, NSW)
Jake Harvie (Dardanup, WA)
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT)
Tim Howard (Wakerley, QLD)
Tyler Lovell (Perth, WA)
Trent Mitton (Perth, WA)
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS)
Flynn Ogilvie (Wollongong, NSW)
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD)
Corey Weyer (Biggera Waters, QLD)
Jake Whetton (Brisbane, QLD)
Dylan Wotherspoon (Murwillumbah, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA)
Kookaburras 2018 World Cup schedule:
Friday 30 November 9:30pm AEDT – Australia v Ireland
Tuesday 4 December 11:30pm AEDT – Australia v England
Friday 7 December 9:30pm AEDT – Australia v China
Monday 10 December – Crossovers
Wednesday 12 December – Quarter-Finals
Saturday 15 December – Semi-Finals
Sunday 16 December – Finals