Going for goals
By NEIL BROWN in Melbourne
FOR years Brent Livermore has been the man at the controls of the superbly oiled machine that is the Australian men's hockey team.
Debuting in the national senior team 1997 after captaining the Australian Under-21 team to a gold medal at the Junior World Cup, he has developed into one of the world's finest players.
Individual gongs have been many and regular culminating in being nominated for the prestigious International Hockey Federation player of the year award in 2002 and again three years later.
His performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games was in itself memorable.
But his coolness under pressure in that thrilling, tension-packed final where he calmly controlled the midfield as the Kookaburras went on to claim this country's first men's hockey Olympic gold medal glory in 2004 stood out.
And just as has done over the years, he has accepted a recent new role in the team with his switch to the midfield.
"It's certainly a new challenge for me," said Livermore, who has 226 Test appearances to draw on.
"I suppose you do get used to playing a certain way and you get accustomed to that role and the demands of doing things the same way.
"But the move has definitely sparked a freshness for me and I'm enjoying it."
Livermore again starred for Australia in a 5-1 pounding of England yesterday, scoring twice and helping to lay a strong platform for his team.
His on-field decision making and option selection has been the strong point of his decorated career, to the point where his error percentage was virtually zero.
He admits his new role allows him to be more adventurous.
"That is one difference with the move," he said.
"I'm used to playing percentage, cutting the risks, but now I am allowed to take a few more risks."
As good as he is, Livermore admits the move has not come easily.
"It can be frustrating at times, and being honest, no it hasn't (come easily)," he said.
"You do things and they don't come off and you question yourself about your form and whether you did the right thing."
With each new game Livermore continues the learning curve and today he hopes to pass another test when the Kookaburras take on New Zealand.
"I suppose, so far, we have been a bit up and down with our form," he said.
"At times we have been brilliant, but there have been long patches where we lack cohesion.
"We have definitely stepped up a bit, but where we are now should be our base game."
Australia has an impressive record at Commonwealth Games level against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
In three previous meetings the Kookaburras are yet to bow to the Kiwis winning 2-0 in 1998 and then 6-1 in the pool round in Manchester, before again prevailing 5-2 in the gold-medal final.