Following Australia’s opening victory over India 4-3 in the 22nd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh Malaysia, Kookaburras coach Ric Charlesworth asked when was the last time an Australian team gave five players their debuts in the same match. In any sport it would be rare, but that is the great thing about Charlesworth and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
The competition this year has seen many of the competing nations blood young players for the future, and give some who will be competing at the Junior World Cup in India in December the chance to play in front of a big crowd and boost their experience. This is still an international competition, and each and every nation comes here wanting to compete and be playing off for the cup come the week’s end. However as Chalesworth pointed out it is not one of the key competitions, the Champions Trophy, the Olympic Games or the World Cup. It is a good tournament to judge what possible future internationals can achieve.
Australia’s five debutants in the opening game were Daniel Beale, Craig Boyne, Nick Budgeon, Josh Miller and Daniel Mirecki. Watching them perform you would have thought that all five had been playing at international level all their lives. Sure there were technical issues that the coaching staff will want to work on, but they must have been encouraged.
Charlesworth, however highlighted the fact that although they were new to the Kookaburras team they were not young players in terms of experience. With the exception of Daniel Beale all of the debutants are in their twenties and have a wealth of hockey experience having played in the Australian Hockey League and in some cases overseas. These players have not been pushed too early and the benefits of waiting and allowing them to mature as individuals was clearly apparent in their performances.
What must be even more pleasing is how quickly they have adapted with Budgeon scoring twice in his second game against Pakistan and Mirecki once in the 6-0 thumping of Pakistan in game 2.
Other players with a limited number of caps going into this tournament are Chris Bausor, Tristan White and Aran Zalewski from Margaret River, who had just one cap and one goal. Timothy Bates was another who sadly has succumbed to a possible abdominal tear in the opening game.
As Charlesworth said this may not be one of the World’s major tournaments but is an ideal one to see the emerging talent for years to come and start rebuilding for the next Olympic campaign.
Australia’s next test will be against host nation Malaysia on Tuesday