A Hockeyroos side packed with experience and youth has shown it has no trouble making finals. Winning them, however, is another story.
Fresh off going down to the Netherlands 5-1 in the Champions Trophy final at the end of November, the Australian side know if they want to win gold at Tokyo 2020, they need to score under pressure.
It’s a frustrating, but familiar, scenario for captain Emily Smith.
“To lost 5-1 in a grand final is embarrassing. I had a good chance in the first minute of the game but didn’t put it away,” Smith said.
“We haven’t been playing the hockey we want to play.
“We need to be able get it done every game, whether it’s a grand final or a training match.
“We’re a great team when we don’t overthink it”
Smith has been to two Olympic Games already so knows the failings of the Australia team well.
Australia have climbed to third on the world rankings, but it is how they perform in the matches that matter that is concerning.
Earlier this year the Hockeyroos lost their World Cup semi-final to the Netherlands (3-1) and Commonwealth Games final to New Zealand (4-1).
“We’ve been competing and matching it with some of the best teams in the world,” Smith said, “but when there’s a little bit of pressure, we’re not always handling it well.”
With 18 months until Tokyo 2020, Smith is still confident of being able to lead Australia to their first gold medal in 20 years.
The 2019 Hockeyroos squad, announced last week, includes a string of up-and-comers such as recent debutantes Penny Squibb, Rebecca Greiner and Greta Hayes.
All three players added flair to Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign and Squibb flicked her first international goal off a penalty corner during a gritty contest against Japan.
With them confirmed in the squad, the team now has time to gel before they go after the ultimate goal.
“If everyone really knuckles down for the next 18 months, it’s scary to think what could happen. We’ll be a force,” Smith said.
First, the Aussies will fight for redemption when they play the Netherlands in the FIH Pro league in February.
Coach Paul Gaudion wants the squad to lift to take home the title, including improving their base fitness.
“Beating Holland would be satisfying,” he said.
“They’re definitely a team we’d love to beat, but they’re one team of many that we’ll need to beat.
“The work rate needs to be consistent for 60 minutes of the game, especially when you’re playing the best teams in the world.
“You can’t give away easy chances.”