Australia’s women’s hockey team is slowly rebuilding its confidence and Thursday night’s win over Japan in Adelaide will further boost the squad after the disappointment of the Rio Olympics.
The Hockeyroos beat Japan 2-1 to claim victory in the three Test series, following Wednesday night’s 5-1 win at Gepps Cross, the first time in a decade the national team has played in South Australia.
Madi Ratcliffe and Kathryn Slattery both scored in Thursday night’s win.
“Really happy to get the win, that ties off the series for us so that’s a really positive thing,” Slattery said.
“There are definitely positives to take out of the game, to get that early scoreboard pressure, that’s really important.”
The national team includes a host of new players pushing for selection ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
And with new faces also in the boardroom and in off-field roles, the Hockeyroos are targeting a return to the top of the sport.
“It’s been a tough road this sort of nine or 10 months but I think we’ve come through, I think the girls are beginning to trust the environment and trust the leadership group including staff and the coaching and the playing group,” coach Paul Gaudoin said.
The former Kookaburras defender was appointed head coach of the Hockeyroos in December, after a disastrous campaign in Rio which saw them put in their worst Olympic performance, crashing out before the medal rounds.
What followed was a period of turmoil, with then coach Adam Commens stood down for alleged serious misconduct.
A new board was installed at Hockey Australia, then a new chief executive appointed in former Australian Institute of Sport director Matt Favier.
But the changes have not been limited to the boardroom.
Gaudoin has brought in a host of new faces on the pitch after the retirement of stalwarts Madonna Blyth and Georgie Parker.
Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin played at the Sydney and Atlanta Olympics. (Supplied: Grant Treeby)
The 42-year-old has also given the team a fresh approach, no longer comparing themselves to some of the golden teams of years gone by.
“A lot has changed and we’re starting to build a group that’s probably different to the next … we don’t put that pressure on ourselves to be that previous team,” Gaudoin said.
Renee Taylor has been in the national set-up for more than three years and is enjoying herself now more than ever.
“It’s very positive, it’s very fun and it’s something that we want to take forward and we want to succeed with so we’re really pushing as a group to be better and yeah basically be the best in the world,” she said.
“We know we have things to work on but with the group that we’ve got I think we have opportunities to take really big strides and compete for those medals.”
Defender Kirstin Dwyer played in Rio and desperately wants another shot at Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2020.
“We try to create our own future,” she said.
Gaudoin has so far blooded 11 players aged under 21, including two debutants in the first game against Japan in Adelaide.
And with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on the horizon and a World Cup next year as well, he is eager to give others a taste as well.
But Tokyo in 2020 is his real target.
“We’ve had a very good history in the Commonwealth Games, so we want to be successful there but certainly ultimately we’re looking at success in Tokyo,” he said
The final game in the Australia-Japan Test series will be played in Adelaide on Saturday afternoon.