Hockeyroos aim to spring surprise in Tokyo

Hockeyroos players at the announcement of the Tokyo Olympic squad in Perth.
Hockeyroos players at the announcement of the Tokyo Olympic squad in Perth.

Hockeyroos coach Katrina Powell feels the "cloak of COVID" has boosted her team's chances of snaring a shock gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

The Hockeyroos are ranked fourth in the world and will enter the Olympics as a big wildcard given their lack of internationals in the 18 months leading up to the Games.

The recent four-match series in NZ, in which the Hockeyroos won 1-0 with three draws, was their first taste of national team action in 15 months.

The Hockeyroos will lock horns with NZ again in Perth later this month, with the Olympics to come shortly after.

Most of Australia's main rivals have enjoyed a far busier lead-in competing at the EuroHockey Championships.

Although that has given them a much better preparation in terms of getting match hardened against a variety of opponents, Powell says the Hockeyroos' lack of international exposure could play into their favour.

"I think the advantage is in our court with a new coach coming in, new way of playing, a new outlook," Powell said.

"Training and being under that cloak of COVID means that we get the advantage of them not knowing how we'll show up.

"We have very high expectations going in.

"We are aiming to play the sixth of August (when the medals are decided), and to make sure we are there are the pointy end of the competition."

The Netherlands are ranked No.1, with Argentina and Germany rounding out the top three.

England (fifth), NZ (sixth), Spain (seventh) and Belgium (eighth) are other nations who will be pushing to medal at the Olympics - along with Australia.

The Hockeyroos have been plagued by off-field dramas over the past nine months, resulting in the exits of Hockey Australia high performance manager Toni Cumpston and Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin.

Powell was rushed in as senior coach when Gaudoin quit in March, leaving her with precious little time to heal fractures ahead of the Olympics.

The Hockeyroos' 16-woman Olympic squad was named on Monday, but there was late drama when a mystery player appealed their non selection.

One of the toughest selection calls that faced Powell was the omission of former captain Georgina Morgan.

Morgan was controversially left off the 2021 contract list by Gaudoin late last year, but both her and goalkeeper Rachael Lynch won their appeal to be reinstated in the wider squad.

Lynch made the final cut for the Olympics but there was no room for Morgan, who wasn't even selected in the extended squad for the recent series in NZ.

"Georgie is a very accomplished player, she's part of the Hockeyroos legacy and hopefully will be again in the future," Powell said.

"But for right now it wasn't possible for her to be part of the group."

Australian Associated Press