Hockeyroos warm up for Kiwis against GB

CHRIS BARRETT
Last updated 01:01 21/07/2012

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Teenage Hockeyroos striker Emily Smith believes Australia have sent a message that they are not to be underestimated with victory over one of the Olympic favourites.

The Australian women's team opened preparations for their tilt at gold in London with a 2-0 win over fourth-ranked Great Britain at the Olympic Park's Riverside Arena in a practice match on Friday.

Goals to Smith and drag-flick specialist Jodie Schultz gave Adam Commens' team victory in the unofficial "Test" against the host nation.

A former superpower Australia are now ranked seventh in the world in women's hockey and must get past sixth-ranked New Zealand and top-three rated Argentina and Germany in a perilous group stage to challenge for the podium. Their other preliminary games are against South Africa and the United States.

Australia won gold in 1988, 1996 and 2000 but missed out altogether in Beijing four years ago and are not among the most-fancied countries here, with the Netherlands (first) and China (fifth) also among the heavyweights.

However, pint-sized Smith, the youngest member of the Hockeyroos' squad, said the win over Britain proved they could mix it with the best that were assembling in east London. "Especially because they're on the big favourites for the tournament," she said. "To knock them off, hopefully that might get them worried a little bit as well.

"On their good day they are brilliant but if they're lacking a bit of confidence we can really put it to them."

Smith said the Hockeyroos were braced for an "extremely" big challenge in their first pool game against New Zealand on July 29. They will have two more practice games before then.

"The Kiwis always play their best hockey against Australia," she said. "It's a bit of a rivalry, we've just got to be ready for their fast-paced game and hopefully do the same thing, put them away early when we've got enough energy.

"A couple of our girls have played over in their national league and they've played in our national league so we know each other quite well and we often play each other for practice matches. It's always tight."

Now based in Perth the 19-year-old hails from the NSW Southern Tablelands town of Crookwell and is the baby of the Hockeyroos team and put to bed a recent injury scare with her first-half goal on Friday.

"I broke my finger the last training session before we came over," Smith said. "I was a bit worried but to put a goal away I'm back on track."

Schultz, 24, struck from a penalty corner in the second half to complete the surprise win over the British team.

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"She's unbelievable, she's improved so much and she's a really good asset to our team," Smith said. "My job is to get the corners. Hopefully she slots them in for me."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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