IMAGE | Michael Willson
The Kookaburras remain on track to claim an unprecedented sixth straight Commonwealth Games hockey gold medal after advancing to the final with a nail-biting 2-1 win over England.
The Australian men’s team, who have lost just one match in the history of the Games, will meet trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in what will also be skipper Mark Knowles’ emotional farewell.
Australia did it the hard way in the semis, reduced to eight outfield players for the final seven minutes after two yellow cards to Daniel Beale and Tom Craig.
To make matters worse, England replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player, putting Australia under intense pressure given their numerical disadvantage.
England were unable to thwart the brave Australian defence, which was spearheaded by their ever-reliable leader Mark Knowles, who said he’d never experienced anything like it.
“I’ve never played in a game like that,” he said. “I’ve played with a man down before and against a goalkeeper off, but never two players down against a goalkeeper off.
Knowles was full of praise for the side for a gritty performance.
“It’s hard enough playing with 11 players on the field, let alone playing with nine and against a team that’s taken their goalkeeper off,” he said.
“What I will say is that’s as gritty a performance as I’ve seen for a long time.
“We desperately wanted to win for this crowd, this team and ourselves.”
“I’m so proud to lead this group.”
The final will be 34-year-old Knowles’ final match for Australia, having announced his retirement prior to the Commonwealth Games, ending a decorated 324-game career.
“We’re there now. I want it for myself but I want it more for the 11 guys who don’t have a gold medal. There’s no lack of motivation for us.”
In the other men’s semi-final, the Indian men’s hockey team squandered eight of the nine penalty corners to suffer a 2-3 defeat at hands of lower-ranked New Zealand.
Expect fireworks at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre on Saturday night when the Kookaburras and Black Sticks fights for Trans-Tasman bragging rights and Commonwealth gold – push back at 9.15pm AEST – do not miss this one!