Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Kookaburras v New Zealand, the GOT score and World Cup selection

Happy Easter everyone!

Today I’ll be wrapping up the recent two test series we played against New Zealand over the weekend in Perth. I will mention a few standout players and special moments from the games. I will then explain a pretty interesting statistic that the Kookaburras use in each match called the GOT and finish with a few thoughts on selection and how it affects me and the group.

But first, New Zealand are our neighbours and oldest rivals. They always have been, always will be. Our battles are often fierce contests played with intensity, energy, emotion and a high skill level. However in my opinion, the matches over the weekend only showcased these elements in dribs and drabs.

We ran out 4-1 winners in Match 1 but the scoreline probably flattered us a little. Although we had a number of good opportunities to score, with 10 minutes to go it was still 2-1 and it took a late brace from Jake Whetton to put the result beyond doubt. We played OK. Our essential skills let us down at times, we failed to capitalise on our fair share of chances and lost control of the match briefly in the second half which allowed New Zealand to sneak back into it. New Zealand seemed a bit off and didn’t play with their usual spark. This was unexpected.

Match 2 was different. I didn’t play but it seemed there was a strong reaction from the Black Sticks as they muscled up and applied more pressure in each contest. They were hard-nosed, physical, desperate and played with better tone and enthusiasm than in Match 1. It ended up being a 1-1 draw as chances were hard to come by for both sides. Our guys weren’t happy with the match afterwards and cited the lack of good connections and sloppy basic skills as areas that required attention.

So who stood out? For me there were a few:

Jake Whetton – small in stature but large in influence, Whetto only played the one match but seemed to be involved in everything good. He set one goal up and scored a brace himself, highlighted by a terrific tomma from an almost impossible angle. That goal snatched back control of the game for us and his second killed it off. His energy is contagious and his variety of leads bamboozled the Kiwi defence.

Joel Carroll – has been out of action for a while but slotted back into the side with ease, playing both matches. Joel was his typical rock-like self in defence and constantly slapped penetrating balls to our high forwards. After a fair bit of time out, he will definitely be better off for the run and looked ominous with and without the ball.

Russell Ford – celebrated his 150th cap in Match 1 in what has been a great career to date. Russ has been our most consistently brilliant striker over the past two years as he continues to improve and grow in confidence. His goal scoring ability is up there with the best in the world and his off the ball awareness and situational knowledge is superb. He is getting better every day and all at the ripe old age of 30 ; )

A special mention must also go to Dean Cousins. The Black Sticks skipper played his 300th match in Perth in what is truly an awesome achievement. Not many players reach a milestone like this and you could sense the New Zealand lads rose to the occasion in Match 2 as they no doubt tried to get a much-deserved victory for their captain. Congrats Dean.

Moving on and our coach Ric Charlesworth loves his stats. He could give you a stat on almost anything. How many goal shots we’ve had since 2008. How many times we’ve conceded a PC in the last 5 minutes of a game. He could probably even give you a stat on how often Tim Deavin picks up on tour (not much). But one statistic that is mentioned more often than any other around our group is the GOT.

The goal opportunity total (GOT) is a system in which our coaching staff ranks each chance both teams get to score in every game. A chance is generally a shot or attempted shot at goal, each shot is given a score between 1-5 and then it is tallied up at the end.

For example, an unopposed shot from the stroke spot would be given a score of 5 in the GOT, whilst a contested shot from the baseline would be awarded a 1. A stroke or a corner registers a 5 as well.

Our two recent matches against New Zealand had the following GOT scores:

Match 1                       Kookaburras 70 - New Zealand 20                              (4-1 Win)
Match 2                       Kookaburras 45 - New Zealand 19                              (1-1 Draw)

Now a bigger GOT doesn’t always mean a bigger score. And although we find ourselves winning the GOT score more often than not, we don’t always win the match. Why? Because at times we are wasteful.

Below is the GOT score from the London Olympic semi-final v Germany. We lost that game 4-2 but won the GOT. Big deal right? It does show that we created more chances than them but at the end of the day, our failure to be more efficient potentially cost us a shot at an Olympic Gold medal.

Semi-Final                   Kookaburras 45 – Germany 39                                    (4-2 Loss)

The GOT basically represents the ability of each side to capitalise on their chances and we believe that if we create enough chances, eventually we will score. That’s why we are always so aggressive. That’s why we press. That’s why we don’t take our foot off the pedal. And that’s why we are the number 1 ranked team in the world at the moment.

It’s interesting and it’s often an objective of ours to register a single figure defensive GOT score in each half of hockey we play. It hasn’t been done too often.

To finish today my focus turns to World Cup selections, which are happening this weekend. It’s a nerve-wracking time for some. Everyone handles the selection process differently and deals with the pending news in their own way.

The hardest part of selection is knowing that there is limited room in the side and that quite a few guys will be unhappy. Tough, life-altering decisions have to be made and I don’t envy this part of Ric and the coaching staff’s job for one minute. Nearly half the group will miss out. I could be disappointed. My mates might be disappointed. And for those that are lucky enough to get in, conversations with these people are often the most difficult any sportsperson can have. But they need to be had. Sometimes that support is the difference between pushing on and throwing it in.

Selection is done via email which most of the group feels is the best way to receive the news. Most isolate themselves around the time the team is sent out. I guess in case the news is bad. We have it alright compared to some shocking ways the news has been delivered in the past.

I remember Liam De Young telling a story about his early days in the Australian side and how he awkwardly found out about selection one day. He was on the way home from training with Rob Hammond and Nathan Eglington who he lived with at the time when one of their phones rang…it was the coach delivering the team news. One by one they passed the phone around the car for each guy to receive the good or bad news. They didn’t all get in. Awkward? Bloody oaf!

I remember reading a terrible story about Hockeyroo Katie Allen and her selection drama. She was told to call Hockey Australia at a prescribed time, state her name and then wait nervously as the admin lady scrolled through the list to try and find it. If it was there “Congratulations”, if not “Commiserations” and that was it. Allen went through this process twice. On the first occasion she missed out. On the second, she got in. Bugger that!

One of my earliest memories of missing selection was the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I was only 21 at the time and although I was realistically no shot at making that side, getting the email and not seeing my name hurt a lot. I messaged my Dad and said something along the lines of “I don’t want to do this anymore, this is the worst feeling in the world. Years of hard work for nothing. I’m coming home”. Six years late, I’m glad I stuck with it. It was difficult at the time but I know that moment contributed greatly towards making me the player I am today.

These days though, I try not to think too much about it. Selection or not, life will go on. I will spend Sunday morning at the beach and hopefully get the email sometime when I jump out of the water. I’m hoping for good news but only time will tell.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a fantastic Easter weekend and ate plenty of choccy. Remember the Hockey World Cup starts on May 31, all of our matches will be shown on the ABC and hopefully live streamed through Get around it and look out for more updates from me along the way.


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Thanks to Voodoo Hockey Australia 

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