HOCKEY: Emily Smith’s back post deflection earned the Australian women’s hockey team a 1-0 win over Spain in their final practice match at the Olympic Hockey Centre on Thursday, 48 hours before they open their Olympic campaign against Great Britain.
With the Games looming large on the horizon, Australian Head Coach Adam Commens acknowledged that some nerves were beginning to show but remained confident his side is ready to pursue its quest for a first Olympic medal in 16 years.
“It was a good last hit out,” said Commens. “They’re a tricky side. We haven’t seen much of them in the last couple of years so it takes some time to adapt. I thought we had some promising passages of play.
“There were some individuals that could have performed better today, but they have been playing well so I’m not too concerned about that. I suppose last minute jitters before an Olympic Games debut is normal. Players don’t want to get injuries and it’s very difficult to get people going full out 100%.”
Both sides created several opportunities in the shortened 45-minute encounter but it was Smith that capitalised following good work down the left from youngster Grace Stewart, whose pass Smith turned home.
Mariah Williams came closest to extending Australia’s advantage but was denied at close range by a double save from the Spanish goalkeeper. Australian ‘keeper Rachael Lynch also made a telling contribution late in the game when she stuck out a stick to intercept a pass destined for an unmarked Spanish forward at the far post.
Since the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Australia’s women have revamped their full-time training program in Perth and have frequently reached the finals of major events, including the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and World League.
“I’m comfortable that we have a variety of ways of play and that we can execute them well,” added Commens. “The girls are prepared physically. They’re confident in their abilities and the fact that they can take it to any nation in the world. I’m happy with where we’re at.”
Australia met their day one opponents, Great Britain, six times in Western Australia in February, winning twice, losing once and drawing three times. Their most recent encounter at June’s Champions Trophy in London finished 4-1 to Australia.
Australia’s women begin their Olympic campaign against Great Britain at 8:30pm on Saturday (9:30am AEST, Sunday).