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McLeod upbeat despite whitewash in Australia

JONATHAN MILLMOW
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2012
Shane McLeod
Photosport
HIGH HOPES: Black Sticks coach Shane McLeod has 'high hopes' of making the semifinals.

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Black Sticks men's hockey coach Shane McLeod denies their Olympic campaign is in tatters after three heavy defeats against Australia.

Considered by some as medal longshots in London after winning the Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia earlier in the month, the Black Sticks have come crashing back to earth in Cairns.

Their normally watertight defence conceded 15 goals; Monday night's 4-1 loss came on the back of 5-1 and 6-1 hidings.

McLeod was putting on a brave face yesterday as his side prepared to return to New Zealand.

"Grounding is the key word," McLeod said. "The realisation of how tough London is going to be is pretty clear now.

"The success of Azlan Shah [second tier tournament] was excellent but what we need to do is measure ourselves against the top four teams."

Playing Australia in their own backyard so close to an Olympics was always fraught with danger but McLeod does not regret the exercise.

"It is not a setback. One of the reasons we went there was to see where we were at, and to get a list of things to work on.

"It is part of the process. It is not nice going through it, but we don't want to go to London feeling naive, so if there was any naivety in the group that has been removed."

Asked how the side had responded to conceding 15 goals in three tests, McLeod said: "It is a lot of goals. They are a very clinical side. They had 10 [scoring] opportunities in the second game and scored from five, which is an incredibly high scoring percentage. "

The Black Sticks were unable to force a penalty corner on Monday night but had more luck on Friday and Saturday, with two and three respectively. Equally, the Black Sticks only conceded one on Monday night.

McLeod paid Australia a tribute, saying he was glad they were in the opposite group in London.

"If we play Aussie in London, things will be going pretty well for us," he said in reference to their only possible meeting being at the semifinal or final stage.

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