Women’s hockey wrap: Aussie influence not restricted to our team

Published 23 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: The Australian team line up for the anthem before the Women's Pool B match between Australia and Japan on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Hockey Centre on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

HOCKEY: Either way, an Australian was going to come out on the winning side in the women’s Olympic hockey tournament.

On one side of the contest, Alyson Annan, a legend of the Australian women’s hockey team, the country’s highest ever female goal scorer (166) and twice an Olympic gold medallist (1996, 2000), is now in charge of the Netherlands.

On the other side, Craig Keegan, a Tasmanian who has lived in the UK for more than 20 years, is now serving as senior assistant coach to the Great Britain team.

In what became a wonderful advertisement for the sport, defending champions the Netherlands (world ranking of one) and GB (world ranked 7th) treated the global audience to a feast of goals in a thrilling 3-3 draw that saw the gold medal settled in GB’s – and Keegan’s favour - with a nail-biting shoot-out.

British goalkeeper Maddie Hinch proved yet again why she is considered one of the best in the game, denying the Dutch time and again in the shoot-out, which Hollie Webb ultimately sealed for the Brits. And with it, her country’s first ever Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey.

In a demonstration of just how competitive world hockey is, Great Britain’s win meant that both the women’s and men’s gold medallists (Argentina) came into the tournament ranked a relatively lowly seventh.

Germany, ranked ninth, pulled off another surprise as they clinched the bronze medal with a 2-1 win over Australia’s quarter-final conquerors, New Zealand. It meant a second consecutive Olympic bronze medal defeat for the Kiwis, who missed the medals by one place to GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

USA, who started the tournament with four wins from four, ultimately finished fifth – one place higher than Australia. It marked a strong improvement for the Americans who were bottom of the pile, 12th, in London.

Australia’s sixth place finish, courtesy of a quarter-final defeat and finishing behind USA in the pool, was one lower than in London four years ago and will be seen as a disappointment for the World Cup silver medallists and reigning Commonwealth champions.

World number two Argentina, who arrived in Rio as the defending silver medallists, will also be disappointed with their tournament as they finished seventh in the first Olympic Games to be held on the South American continent.

Spain, who received their place in Rio when South Africa declined to send its team, finished eighth, ahead of the Asian trio of China (ninth), Japan (tenth) and Korea (11th).

India, whose women’s team was appearing in the Olympics for the first time in 36 years and only the second time ever, finished 12th.

Keegan and Annan were not the only Australians with a strong interest in Friday’s finale. In a coup for Australian officiating, experienced umpire-turned-video-umpire Lisa Roach and technical official Tammy Standley were both appointed to the gold medal match.

It took the number of Australian officials in the gold medal matches to four, following the appointments of Adam Kearns and Josh Burt to the men’s gold medal game 24 hours earlier.

Women’s hockey tournament, final standings 1. Great Britain (gold) 2. Netherlands (silver) 3. Germany (bronze) 4. New Zealand 5. USA 6. Australia 7. Argentina 8. Spain 9. China 10. Japan 11. Korea 12. India

Lawrence West

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