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Australia A tour of Japan to provide key learnings

Published Mon 22 Aug 2022

An Australia A Men’s squad will depart for Japan on Tuesday in what is a ‘unique opportunity’ for the players to test themselves according to Head Coach Brent Livermore.

The Australia A squad, comprising a combination of Kookaburras squad players and members of the Men’s National Development Squad (NDS), will play four matches against Japan’s national men’s team in Tokyo. The matches are on 27, 28, 30 August, with the final match to be played on 1 September.

The tour will give players on the cusp of Australia’s world number one ranked men’s hockey team valuable match play against a top 20 opponent.

“There are a number of key levels to this tour that provide a unique opportunity to play some international matches as Australia A,” said Livermore, who represented the Kookaburras 319 times between 1997 and 2009.

“To play Japan in Japan is exciting and provides our next tier athletes with exposure against quality opposition.”

Eight players in the Australia A squad are currently in the Kookaburras setup. Livermore says having these athletes in the group will be highly beneficial for the NDS players in gaining further understanding of how the Kookaburras go about their business.

“To live, travel, tour and play these matches with the Kookaburras athletes, you pick up on a lot of key performance behaviours that are important,” said Livermore.

“Some of the expectations, standards and behaviours the Kookaburras have when they are on tour is something they can share with our developing athletes, so that’s a key take away and learning.”

The last time an Australia A team competed against international opposition was in January 2020 with hit outs against Belgium as a prelude to the FIH Pro League.

With such limited international hockey over the past two years due to COVID, Livermore sees this Japan tour as a time for the players to test themselves and learn more about the way Kookaburras play.

Furthermore, with the FIH Men’s World Cup coming up in January, this tour also presents an opportunity to put themselves in serious contention for that squad.

“For the players to have this international competition…to play at the venue where the Tokyo Olympics were held and test themselves in a hot climate and see how they cope with the demands and the pressure is invaluable,” said Livermore.

“This is where these players can put their best foot forward for World Cup qualification and put pressure on the guys in the Kookaburras team.

“The guys pushing from the Development Squad have the opportunity to put their hand up as well and as a prelude to Hockey One this is a really great opportunity for everybody.”

Japan’s national men’s team, who are currently ranked 17th in the world, will provide a stern test.

“We haven’t seen Japan since the Olympics last year. They have new coaching staff, they clearly provide every team with interesting challenges because of their speed and counter attacking ability, so it’s a really good challenge for us,” said Livermore.

“In saying that, the focus of these matches will predominantly be on learning about ourselves. Every time an Australia A team comes together you go away with the inspiration and motivation to push harder, take away some of those key learnings and put them into your training environment.”

“Tours and matches of this nature will increase our depth and talent within the high performance pathway.”

Australia A squad for Japan Tour
Hayden Beltz (TAS), Jonathan Bretherton (VIC), James Collins* (WA), Liam Flynn (WA), Michael Francis (QLD), Gobin Gill (TAS), Fred Gray (SA), Sam Gray (NSW), Anand Gupte (ACT), Ehren Hazell (NSW), Craig Marais* (VIC), Dylan Martin* (NSW), Sam McCulloch (TAS), Ben Rennie* (WA), Daine Richards (NSW), Jake Staines (ACT), Damon Steffens (VIC), Ash Thomas (NSW), Corey Weyer* (QLD), Ky Willott* (NSW)
*Kookaburras squad
**Tom Harvie, Joel Rintala, Lahlan Sharp and Jack Welch were forced to withdraw due to injury.