THE Hockeyroos’ inaugural FIH Pro League tilt will have a distinctly local flavour with more than a quarter of the 18 member squad hailing from Victoria.
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Five Victorians — Hayley Padget, Kristina Bates, Rachael Lynch, Sophie Taylor and Ashlee Wells — along with state team member Lily Brazel, will suit up for the Aussie women in a pair of matches at the State Netball and Hockey Centre.
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The Hockeyroos and Kookaburras — featuring locals Johan Durst and Aaron Kleinschmidt — will each take on Netherlands on Saturday and then Belgium on Sunday.
The mouth-watering clashes feature the three best men’s teams in the world, with World Cup winner Belgium, Australia and Netherlands ranked No.1, 2 and 3 respectively.
Kookaburras coach Colin Batch said the squad was selected with an eye on the future.
“It’s a balanced selection for Melbourne … we’re looking at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and what that might bring so we’re looking to give people an opportunity, starting with the FIH Pro League,” Batch said.
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The world No.3 Hockeyroos will celebrate the return of Georgia Wilson and Mariah Williams from long-term injuries.
Wilson’s Commonwealth Games dream was ended when she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament early last year, while Williams also missed the Games due to a debilitating adductor injury that required surgery.
Coach Paul Gaudoin said the pair had “put in a lot of hard work” to make it back from their injuries and he was wary of World No.1 Netherlands and the improving Belgium.
“Holland are the best team in the world and it’s a great test for us to start the FIH Pro League,” Gaudoin said.
“Belgium as well, both games are going to be very tough. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The Hockeyroos have had a shift in their leadership structure, with incumbent captain Emily Chalker being joined by Jodie Kenny and Georgina Morgan in a captaincy triumvirate.
The change from a sole captain to an expanded co-captaincy comes with a view to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“We always wanted to re-assess the leadership structure following the World Cup, so with our 2019 programme commencing earlier this month, now is an opportune time,” Gaudoin said.
“We decided we needed to change the program leadership to align with where we’re going as a group.”
“Jodie, Georgina and Emily all complement each other with their attributes and are focused in the same direction as the coaching staff and are keen to lead this group to a new and exciting 18 months.”
Wamuran defender Kenny, 30, has vast experience with 212 caps and 109 goals while Crookwell forward Chalker, 26, has 211 caps and 75 goals to her name. Defender Morgan, who hails from Armidale in NSW, is 25-years-old and has 76 caps and 18 goals.
The captaincy will be shared around game-by-game during the Pro League.
Australian home fixtures at State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne
Saturday, February 2
Kookaburras v Netherlands — 3pm
Hockeyroos v Netherlands — 5pm
Sunday, February 3
Kookaburras v Belgium — 3pm
Hockeyroos v Belgium — 5pm
Kookaburras 20-member team
Johan Durst (Melbourne, VIC)
Aaron Kleinschmidt (Melbourne, VIC)
Trent Mitton (Perth, WA)
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS)
Lachlan Sharp (Lithgow, NSW)
Joshua Simmonds (Melbourne, VIC)
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD)
Corey Weyer (Biggera Waters, QLD)
Jake Whetton (Brisbane, QLD)
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA)
Blake Govers (Wollongong, NSW)
Jake Harvie (Dardanup, WA)
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT)
Tim Howard (Wakerley, QLD)
Jacob Anderson (Mackay, QLD)
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD)
Joshua Beltz (Hobart, TAS)
Timothy Brand (Chatswood, NSW)
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT)
Tom Craig (Lane Cove, NSW)
Hockeyroos 18-member team
Hayley Padget (Doncaster, VIC)
Kristina Bates (Port Melbourne, VIC)
Rachael Lynch (Warrandyte, VIC)
Sophie Taylor (Melbourne, VIC)
Ashlee Wells (Morwell, VIC) *Plays for SA
Lily Brazel (Sydney, NSW) *Plays for VIC
Edwina Bone (Orange, NSW) *Plays for ACT
Emily Chalker (Crookwell, NSW)
Jane Claxton (Adelaide, SA)
Madison Fitzpatrick (Cabarita Beach, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Savannah Fitzpatrick (Cabarita Beach, NSW) *Plays for QLD
Jodie Kenny (Wamuran, QLD)
Ambrosia Malone (Burleigh, QLD)
Kaitlin Nobbs (Newington, NSW)
Brooke Peris (Darwin, NT)
Grace Stewart (Gerringong, NSW)
Mariah Williams (Parkes, NSW)
Georgia Wilson (Mahogany Creek, WA)