Unsteady step to gold
By NEIL BROWN
ONE of the lessons learnt during the successful 2004 Athens Olympic Games will be applied to the Kookaburras' preparation for today's Commonwealth Games men's hockey semi-final against Malaysia.
Captain Brent Livermore admitted the team had taken two steps forward and then one step backward following their grinding 5-2 win against New Zealand on Wednesday.
That win elevated the Aussies in today's semi against Malaysia and ultimately one step closer to reaching Sunday's final and making it three Commonwealth Games gold medals in a row for the Kookaburras.
Livermore already has two gold medals from the 1998 Kuala Lumpur and 2002 Manchester Games campaigns and while a third is now realistically in his sights, the man known as 'Chief' was anxious not to get ahead of the game.
"I think after the win over England the day before, we dropped down against New Zealand," Livermore said in a frank assessment of their performance.
"We stepped it up quite a lot to get that sort of result over England and we were looking to take that forward against New Zealand, but unfortunately it didn't allow that.
"But we won't dwell on that too much. We'll get refreshed and prepare for Malaysia."
Patchy efforts in the Kookaburras' opening two games saw Australia raise the bar in a significantly improved effort against England.
But the Kiwis revealed some deficiencies which the Aussies will no doubt have diligently reviewed on the video over the past 24 hours.
New Zealand held Australia at bay during a scoreless first half and then went goal for goal with the host nation until the final nine minutes where three quick goals settled the issue.
"We want to perform well when it really matters, so we will concentrate on our game and stay in the moment and more or less not worry about getting too much ahead of ourselves," he said.
Success at this level requires confidence and a belief in both yourself and your team-mate and that has been one of the hallmarks of this current Australian team.
Livermore believes one positive to emerge from the New Zealand game was the ability of the Aussies to patiently break down the Kiwi defence, something which they will have to do again today against the Asians.
Malaysia is expected to adopt a similar defensive structure to the Kiwis in getting all 11 players behind the ball.
The Malaysians have already given the Kookaburras a recent sneak preview of just how difficult that will be.
The two teams recently warmed up for Melbourne with a two-match series in Perth.