Oz hockey stars are ‘ready for challenge’

2009-05-28 00:00

SOUTH Africa be warned. The Aussies have arrived.

The Australian women’s hockey team are happily ensconced at their beachfront hotel in Durban and looking forward to the Spar Cup Four Nations tournament against South Africa, Argentina and India from next Tuesday to Saturday.

Hockeyroos coach Frank Murray and captain Madonna Blyth (23) spoke to the media in Durban yesterday and declared themselves ready for the challenge.

“We have brought a side that contains half the team from the Beijing Olympic Games and a host of new caps,” said Murray, a legend in the game who has won a hatful of gold, silver and bronze medals while coaching first the Aussie men’s team, the Kookaburras, and then the Hockeyroos.

“Some of the players have played here before,” Murray said. “The South Africans look after us well and we look forward to a series where each side comes with a different style of play.”

Murray said the world’s second-ranked Argentina (behind the Netherlands) have world-class players with fabulous skills.

“Some of them are hockey all-time greats,” he said, referring to celebrated captain Luciana Aymar (250 Tests) and Soledad Garcia (167 Tests).

The Aussies have several players who are no slouches themselves when it comes to skill and experience, among them Blyth, Kate Hollywood and Hope Munro, while team-mate Georgia Nanscawen turned 17 yesterday and Murray said she was in awe of the legendary Argentineans.

SA coach Jenny King finalises her team of 18 on Saturday, this after a week-long training camp ends in Durban.

Murray has respect for the Spar SA team and their coach, and emphasised that the Africans generally always hold against the world’s top teams.

“They are athletic, strong and very competitive, and our matches against them are usually close,” he said.

King has injuries to contend with, telling The Witness yesterday that striker Cindy Botha (groin) and Lisa Deetlef (ankle) are a concern.

Blyth, the Hockeyroos captain, said the series would be a big challenge. “We haven’t played together as a group against teams like Argentina, South Africa and India, so it will give the newcomers a good introduction at this level.”

The SA team will be signing autographs in Durban from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm on Saturday, half the team at Kensington SuperSpar and the rest at Gateway Superspar.

AUSTRALIAN HOCKEYROOS

Georgia Nanscawen, Sarah O’Connor, Casey Eastham, Alison Bruce, Megan Rivers, Kim Walker, Kate Hollywood, Madonna Blyth, Nicole Arrold, Kobie McGurk, Fiona Johnson, Emily Hurtz, Stacia Joseph, Heather Langham, Danielle Schubach, De Anne Gilbert, Rachel Lynch, Hope Munro.

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