MEDAL FAVOURITES: Australia's Daniel Beale (right) challenges for the ball at this year's Champions Trophy.
MEDAL FAVOURITES: Australia's Daniel Beale (right) challenges for the ball at this year's Champions Trophy. Paul Harding

Kookaburras set to open campaign against Kiwis

HOCKEY: A familiar foe awaits the Australian men's hockey team as it sets out on the path to gold in Rio.

The Kookaburras open their campaign early tomorrow morning (2.30am AEST) against New Zealand, and coach Graham Reid is wary of his team's trans-Tasman rivals.

"We know each other back to front, which is good but also dangerous,” Reid said.

"They are a quality team so we'll be preparing as though we're playing in a grand final.

"These pool games are really important because we need to try and be as predictable as we can with our results so that when the crossover finally comes we can try and get as big an advantage in that as we can.”

The results in the pool stages will be crucial in Rio given that the competition for the first time includes quarter-finals, in which the top teams in each group will face the lower-placed teams from the opposite side of the draw.

The world No.1 Kookaburras are in Pool A alongside the Kiwis, Great Britain, Belgium, Spain and Brazil.

"It's pretty much eight grand finals,” Reid said of the team's schedule.

"It's a huge campaign - eight games in 13 days - so we'll be taking it a quarter at a time. It's an old cliche but I think it rings pretty true in this regard.”

The Kookaburras completed their preparations for Rio with a 1-0 win over Ireland in a short practice match on Wednesday, Blake Govers scoring the goal.

Captain Mark Knowles has been cleared to play in Rio after fears he could miss the tournament with a foot stress fracture.

The Aussie women's team, meanwhile, is confident of improvement after a 2-0 loss to world No.1 the Netherlands in its final warm-up match.

"We're really excited and looking forward to what we've got coming,” Hockeyroos defender Karri McMahon said.

"We're in a really good place to kick off our campaign.”

The Hockeyroos face Great Britain tomorrow morning (9.30am AEST) in their opening match of the Games.

With her first match at the Olympic Hockey Centre under her belt, McMahon is looking forward to the clash.

"It might be a cliche but we really do just have to take each day as it comes,” McMahon said.

"We've got another training session and another practice match and then we're into it. We're very excited for it all to start. I can't wait for it to begin.”

The Hockeyroos are in Pool B with the Brits, Argentina, USA, Japan and India.

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