Garner off to world cup

FORMER Grafton junior hockey player Scott Garner is having a year to remember.

The talented goalkeeper won a gold medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival after Australia won a thrilling final 2-1 against India. Yesterday, the 20-year-old was one of 25 players named in Australia's under-21 squad for the 2009 Junior World Cup, to be held in Singapore and Malaysia from June 7-21.

Garner's inclusion in the squad comes a week before the start of the Australian Hockey League competition. Garner will represent Queensland Blades in the AHL.

At the conclusion of the AHL competition - finals will be held in Hobart from April 6-12 - the players will be put through their final paces during an intensive training and selection camp in Darwin from April 23 to May 1.

This will give the players an opportunity to acclimatise to the humidity expected at the Junior World Cup. Coach Jason Duff will trim the squad to about 20 before departing for the competition.

“The Kookaburras played a tournament against China, India and Korea in Darwin prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and it provided them with a good example of the weather conditions they were expected to face at the Beijing Olympics, so we expect to achieve something similar with our camp in Darwin,” Duff said.

While the squad has three debutants - David Collins, Todd Devlin and Travis Taylor - the remaining players gained much needed experience through the 2009 Junior World Cup qualifier against New Zealand in late 2008. Like Garner, several other players were also part of the Youth Olympic Festival squad.

“Although the players are young, they have been well prepared and know what it takes to compete at a world level,” Duff said.

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