The next chapter in one of world hockey’s growing rivalries will unfold over the coming days as the Hockeyroos and India lock horns in a 3-match series at MATE Stadium in Adelaide starting tomorrow night.
In the teams’ two previous meetings, both matches have been drama-filled contests, with India knocking the Hockeyroos out of the Tokyo Olympics, before the Australians prevailed in a shootout in the semi finals of last year’s Commonwealth Games.
Now they meet again in Adelaide as both sides continue to build up to their respective qualifiers for the Paris Olympics.
Hockeyroos Head Coach Katrina Powell will give debuts to five players in this series, with Alice Arnott, Alana Kavanagh, Olivia Downes, Aisling Utri and Pippa Morgan all getting their opportunity.
With five debutantes and an additional eight players with 20 international caps or less, it highlights the national hockey player pathway is working and Powell is eager to see how the group performs together.
“It’s a relatively new group so we’re trying to merge them together and get them playing well come tomorrow night and then hitting their stride by the third game on Sunday,” said Powell.
“We are expecting a really tough series. There have been some big clashes against India of late so there is some ascendancy that we are both trying to get over the other…this week we’re hoping it is going to be us.”
“India is a skilful and determined team. Technically, tactically and physically they are really strong so it’s going to be a great challenge.”
Veteran and local South Australian Jane Claxton will captain the team, just as she did the last time the Hockeyroos played in Adelaide in 2017.
The 30-year-old says that 2017 series against Japan has been one of her fondest memories in her ten year Hockeyroos career to date.
“Hockey is a rare sport where our family and friends can’t often follow us when we play around the world, so it’s special to have a home series in Australia,” said Claxton.
“India are a formidable force. They have had a huge training block leading into this series and are busting to play games, so we know they are going come out all guns blazing.
“With experience and a lot of inexperience in our team, there will be a lot of gelling of how we fit together, so hopefully by the third game we have solidified our playing structure.”
“It’s great to see the five debutantes getting their opportunity and reward for the time and effort they have put into their hockey.”
Claxton played in both the Olympic quarter final and Commonwealth Games semi final against India and says there was no more motivation needed with the opportunity to play in her home state.
“I am a highly competitive person and would say I have borderline white line fever, so any game I play for Australia is incredibly important to me,” said Claxton.
“Add to that being in my hometown in front of my family and friends, I know I will have a lot of fire in my belly…and our recent history against India does add a lot of interest to this series.”
For India, they enter this series against the Hockeyroos with a full strength team in what will be their first international matches since January.
India Coach Janneke Schopman said these matches would be invaluable as look ahead to the Asian Games in September which will determine whether they qualify for next year’s Olympics.
“For us to be able to play the Hockeyroos and see where we are at…we played the number one ranked Netherlands in January so to come up against the Hockeyroos now is going to be interesting to see if we can match them,” said Schopman.
“This series is crucial for us. I’m grateful that we’re here because it’s harder to get games in against top teams, so this is important.”
Schopman also acknowledged the recent history between the two teams added a level of intrigue to this series but said they were not reflecting on what happened previously.
“For me when I was a player but also a coach, it’s about the next thing and you learn from the past,” said Schopman.
“When we won (against the Hockeyroos) in Tokyo it was a long time ago and then at the Commonwealth Games, that result was heartbreaking, but it is what it is…we’ve learnt from it, we’ve moved on. There’s no revenge…this is a new game.”
Hockeyroos v India Series
MATE Stadium, Adelaide
Match 1 – Thursday 18 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Match 2 – Saturday 20 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Match 3 – Sunday 21 May 2023 (6.00pm local, 6.30pm AEST)
Australia A v India Series
MATE Stadium, Adelaide
Match 1 – Thursday 25 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Match 2 – Saturday 27 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)