Kookaburras take top spot with last gasp victory over World Champs

Published Wed 12 Jun 2024

The Kookaburras are on top of the FIH Pro League standings in their penultimate competition before the Paris 2024 Olympics, following a resurgent 3-2 win over Germany in London.

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Facing each other again for the second time in less than 48 hours, the memory of a nail-biting penalty shootout, which didn't go Australia's way, remained fresh on the Kookaburras' minds.

The intensity between the two top-five sides in the world was once again unmatched, as both sides came out firing and the Kookaburras took the early advantage with two penalty corners going their way. 

A great run by Jake Whetton to Tom Craig in a penalty corner that came oh so close, was just the start of what would end as a match to remember for Player of the Match Jake Whetton.

But it would be Germany who would score first and take an early advantage, with a strike off the penalty corner which sailed towards the left post and bounced in.

In a match that was largely being fought in the midfield, Whetton would soon find the equaliser in the second quarter, finishing off a fine run and assist by Tom Craig with a deadly backhand strike into the left of the net.

With the scores tied at the half, Germany found the back of the net next, with another penalty corner goal to take a 2-1 lead. 

It all came down to the final quarter for Australia, with the crucial turning point of the match coming in the 56th minute on their second penalty corner. 

Knowing it was their moment to change the game, captain Aran Zalewski pushed it out to Jake Whetton who rolled it under Ky Willott with a crafty jump, before Tim Howard's powerful stroke sealed the equaliser.

With just a few minutes remaining in the match, the Kookaburras ensured they would not be leaving the match to a shootout. Nathan Ephraums kickstarted the charge with a great run that resulted in Germany being shown a green card and Australia earning another penalty corner and once again they made it count with a huge match-winner from their most experienced, Eddie Ockenden.

The win marks a special 100th celebration for Lithgow's Lachlan Sharp, seven years after his debut.

"It's a very special moment, a very special day. It's always nice to get the win and to do it in my 100th game, it's always pretty special."

Reflecting on his move from working in the coal mines in Lithgow to Perth to undertake his career with the Kookaburras, Lachlan says it's certainly been a very different change.

"That upbringing that I had is what put me in this place today so I'd love to thank my mum and dad for it and my family as well coming through. 

"Being able to grind it out late like that when it was very much a midfield battle and it wasn't really fought in the circles and it was really great to get those late goals."

Bringing up 50 caps for Australia in tonight's win, Ky Willott says the milestone is a dream come true.

"It means a lot, 50 games for the country. Dreaming as a little kid, you'd hope to play one, but 50 is amazing and hopefully, there's many more to come," Ky Willott said post-match.
The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos play their last game of the FIH Pro League season against Great Britain in what will be another fierce match up on Thursday morning. The Kookaburras play before the Hockeyroos at 2.45am AEST.

Kookaburras v Germany
Kookaburras: 3 (Jake Whetton 28' (FG), Tim Howard 56' (PC), Eddie Ockenden 59' (PC))
Germany: 2 (Moritz Ludwig 11' (PC), Gonzalo Peillat 35' (PC))
At Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, London

Kookaburras: 2. Tom Craig, 5. Tom Wickham, 6. Matt Dawson, 10. Joshua Beltz, 11. Eddie Ockenden, 12. Jake Whetton, 13. Blake Govers, 16. Tim Howard, 17. Aran Zalewski (c), 22. Flynn Ogilvie, 30. Andrew Charter (gk), 1. Lachlan Sharp, 3. Corey Weyer, 7. Nathan Ephraums, 8. Johan Durst (gk), 20. Ky Willott, 23. Daniel Beale, 33. Hayden Beltz