The Kookaburras have tuned up for a blockbuster semi final showdown with host national England by dispatching Pakistan 7-0 in clinical fashion at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Facing a Pakistan team that needed to win to advance to the last four, the Kookaburras were challenged early before blowing the game apart with five goals in the last 20 minutes.
The result sees the Kookaburras end the Pool Stage with the maximum 12 points, 29 goals scored and only two conceded as they turn their attention to a knockout semi final on Saturday night local time against England, who finished second behind India in Pool B.
“We have had some tough games and interesting results. The first half tonight was close and we didn’t break the game open until late, so we’re happy to finish on top,” said co-captain Aran Zalewski post game.
“It’s hard to say internally what people see from the outside, but we really enjoy each other’s company, we are a tight knit group who have been together for quite a while now and we just love coming to tournaments, competing and playing against other top teams.”
The legs of Andrew Charter kept Pakistan from taking an early lead and the Kookaburras goalkeeper followed it up with another sharp save from a penalty corner.
Blake Govers started the Kookaburras on their way through a field goal before Jeremy Hayward scored his first of two thunderous drag flicks in the 19th minute to make it 2-0 at half time.
Chasing the game, Pakistan came out on the offensive in the second half. Johan Durst, who replaced Charter at half time, needed quick reflexes to palm away a shot that took a wicked deflection off an Eddie Ockenden stick.
Hayward was then denied his second by the width of a stick as his drag flick was blocked on the goal line.
But he was provided another penalty corner opportunity moments later and made no mistake scoring his sixth goal of the tournament.
It triggered a Kookaburras avalanche as they piled on the goals.
Tom Wickham struck twice in the space of six minutes. For his first, Josh Beltz sent a chaos ball into the circle that floored Daniel Beale and somehow from his haunches the midfielder knocked the ball into the path of Wickham who hammered it into the net first time.
Wickham’s second saw him display some sublime individual skill, sneaking the ball in from the acutest of angles.
Durst made a superb save as he brought his legs together in the nick of time to keep out a penalty corner before saving again from the repeat entry to keep Pakistan scoreless.
Jacob Anderson then smashed home the Kookaburras’ sixth in the 53rd minute before the ever dangerous Nathan Ephraums completed the rout.
Kookaburras 7 (Govers 12’, Hayward 19’/40’, Wickham 42’/48’, Anderson 53’, Ephraums 59’)
@ University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre
Kookaburras: 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Tom Wickham, 6.Matt Dawson, 7.Nathan Ephraums, 8.Johan Durst (gk), 9.Jacob Anderson, 10.Josh Beltz, 11.Eddie Ockenden, 12.Jake Whetton, 13.Blake Govers, 15.Josh Simmonds, 16.Tim Howard, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 22.Flynn Ogilvie, 23.Daniel Beale, 29.Tim Brand, 30.Andrew Charter (gk), 32.Jeremy Hayward