AUSTRALIAN midfielder Aran Zalewski is expecting the Kookaburras to be confronted by a New Zealand team hungry for redemption in Bendigo on Sunday.
For the second year in a row Bendigo will be treated to international hockey, beginning on Sunday afternoon when Australia’s men’s team, the Kookaburras, take on New Zealand from 4pm.
The two teams will clash again on Monday from 4pm at the Bendigo Hockey Centre in Ironbark, which will be followed by Australia’s women’s team, the Hockeyroos, meeting the USA from 6pm.
The three matches in Bendigo are being played as part of the International Festival of Hockey.
The Australian and New Zealand men’s teams last met less than three weeks ago when the Kookaburras secured their 10th Oceania Cup title with a 6-0 rout of the Black Sticks in the final.
Zalewski struck two goals in the Oceania Cup final win for the Kookaburras.
“There’s obviously a fairly fierce rivalry over the Tasman with the Kiwis. We only just played them a few weeks ago in the Oceania Cup and stitched them up 6-0,” Zalewski said on Friday.
“They’ve got a few senior players coming in for the series in Bendigo and no doubt, they will be looking to redeem themselves.
There’s obviously a fairly fierce rivalry over the Tasman with the KiwisAran Zalewski - Australian Kookaburras midfielder
“And we’ll have a bit of a different group with three young players making their debuts in Bendigo, so it will be very exciting for them.”
The trio picked to make their debuts for the Kookaburras are Jake Harvie, Tim Howard and Corey Weyer.
The Kookaburras last year drew 1-1 with India in their two-Test series in Bendigo.
“We got some really good crowds last year in Bendigo,” Zalewski said.
“A lot of the boys who are in the team now are from regional areas and they really enjoy getting back out to the regional areas.”
The two matches in Bendigo and International Festival of Hockey are part of the Kookaburras’ build-up to the upcoming World League finals in India in December and the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next April.
“The Commonwealth Games are the biggest goal in the near future,” Zalewski said.
“We’re using Bendigo and the International Hockey of Festival to prepare for the Commonwealth Games, and also the World League at the end of the year where we get to take on a number of the European teams we normally don’t get to play, so that’s going to be a real benchmark tournament for us.
“Hopefully, these Bendigo matches can set us up for the World League tournament, which will then set us up for the Commonwealth Games.”
Zalewski will captain the Kookaburras in Bendigo.
“It’s really exciting to captain the side. I take real pride in my leadership, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” Zalewski said.
“I know the boys will get behind me and support me, but it’s going to need to be a full-team game.
“Once we get on the pitch we’ll need everyone contributing and to be a leader as well. We’re all really looking forward to the games in Bendigo.”
• Australia’s squads:
Hockeyroos – Laura Barden, Jocelyn Bartram, Kristina Bates, Lily Brazel, Jane Claxton, Kirstin Dwyer, Ashlea Fey, Madison Fitzpatrick, Savannah Fitzpatrick, Emily Hurtz, Stephanie Kershaw, Rachael Lynch, Kaitlin Nobbs, Brooke Peris, Madi Ratcliffe, Emily Smith, Renee Taylor, Georgia Wilson.
Kookaburras – Kiran Arunasalam, Daniel Beale, Joshua Beltz, Andrew Charter, Tristan Clemons, Matthew Dawson, Jeremy Edwards, Blake Govers, Jake Harvie, Jeremy Hayward, Tim Howard, Aaron Kleinschmidt, Edward Ockenden, Joshua Pollard, Corey Weyer, Jacob Whetton, Tom Wickham, Dylan Wotherspoon, Aran Zalewski.