Oceania Cup in Rocky 'like a mini Commonwealth Games'
HOCKEY: The opening day of the Oceania Cup in Rockhampton resembled a mini Commonwealth Games, according to Hockey Australia president Melanie Woosnam.
More than 1500 spectators filled the stands at Kalka Shades as the Australian and New Zealand men's and women's teams went head-to-head in their opening Test matches on Thursday.
The best-of-three series will see the winners qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Woosnam said it was a great day of hockey, capped by a Legends game that featured 13 members of the Kookaburras team that won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, including Rockhampton's Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles.
Fellow Rockhampton Olympian Matt Gohdes was also part of the line-up, and the city's only female hockey Olympian, Kym Ireland, umpired the game.
Woosnam was impressed with what she saw at Rockhampton's hockey headquarters.
"I was up here last year and they hadn't even broken ground on this project,” she said.
"They've created a fantastic facility and Barb (Knowles) and the team have done a great job.
"It was like a mini Commonwealth Games with the seating and the atmosphere.”
Woosnam was also on hand to recognise Gohdes' retirement from international Hockey.
"We like to make a point of acknowledging a player's retirement in their home state and at the most appropriate event,” she said.
"We had planned to do it on Saturday before the men's game but Matt is travelling back to Brisbane to play finals.”
Gohdes, who played 159 games for Australia, said it was "really special” to have his career and his retirement acknowledged by family, friends and the Central Queensland community.
The 29-year-old won a Champions Trophy, a World Cup and an Olympic bronze medal in his seven-year career.
He scored the first goal for the Legends in their game against a CQ Invitational side which proved an entertaining contest.
After a scoreless first quarter, five goals were scored in the second, with the Legends leading 3-2 at half-time.
They went on to slot four more goals, Dwyer scoring the last in the 7-2 result.
Barry Dancer, who coached the Kookaburras to Olympic gold in 2004, was also in Rockhampton for the Legends game.
He said it was a "rare opportunity” to be reunited with the majority of those players.
"To come and play together again has been a unique experience for them because the team as such hasn't played since Athens so it was very enjoyable and I think it entertained the crowd very well,” he said.
"They've still got that touch of class and even though they're a bit rusty in a lot of ways and certainly not as fast as they used to be, or as fit, they're a talented group and it just shows when you see them playing again well past their heyday.”
Dancer, who made 48 appearances for Australia and coached the Kookaburras from 2001 until 2008, said the gold medal was the highlight of his hockey career.
He, too, praised Rockhampton's facilities and the delivery of the Oceania Cup.
"The work that's gone into putting this facility and the event together has been so well rewarded - Thursday night games, really good crowds, good hockey and again you're seeing (some) of the best teams in the world.
"In terms of a regional centre it's outstanding, I think about the regional centres around Australia and it compares more than favourably, and with a second pitch now (it's an) international class facility.
"It augurs well for Rockhampton to ... bring international matches here.
"With the facility, and a surface I understand is the same as in Tokyo, and being a warm climate in the winter months here compared to where other places Australia could play at home in preparation for Tokyo, to me it's a very logical possibility that you could have an Olympic team back here in final months of preparation.”
Intercontinental Hockey 5s at Kalka Shades, Rockhampton
- Noon Saturday: Men, Tonga v Papua New Guinea
- 1pm Saturday: Women, Tonga v Solomon Islands
- Noon Sunday: Women, Tonga v Papua New Guinea
- 1pm Sunday: Men, Tonga v Solomon Islands
Oceania Cup at Kalka Shades, Rockhampton
- 4pm Saturday: Women, Australia v New Zealand
- 6pm Saturday: Men, Australia v New Zealand
- 4pm Sunday: Women, Australia v New Zealand
- 6.15pm Sunday: Men, Australia v New Zealand