Great Britain vs Australia: Penalty Corner Kings

Jackson and Gleghorne line up for a penalty corner

World Champions Australia have named a strong and experienced squad to head to Great Britain to face Bobby Crutchley’s men in what promises to be a spectacular clash between two old sporting foes. On 13 June at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre hostilities will be renewed between the Kookaburras and Great Britain. Of the 18 man squad Australia have named, 14 won the World Cup just a year ago and 13 of the group went on to scoop the Commonwealth Games Gold medal in Glasgow.

With the World League in Antwerp looming large on the horizon for both the Kookaburras and Great Britain, it is fair to say neither side will take this match lightly as they aim to prepare for the tournament where they hope to secure Olympic qualification. Today, we take a look at one of the key areas that could be the difference between winning and losing: Penalty corners.

It almost goes without saying that penalty corners are where a lot of top level hockey is decided. There will be an array of top class penalty corner exponents on display when these two sides meet in London.

For the Great Britain fans, record goalscorer Ashley Jackson will need little or no introduction. The No7 has 113 international goals to his name and whilst he is keen to stress he is much more than “just a drag flicker” his penalty corner ability is such that he is Crutchley’s go-to option when the chips are down. His technique is difficult to read and his accuracy is deadly, goalkeepers need to be at their best to deny Jackson, but few can. Alongside the finesse of Jackson is the power and pace of Mark Gleghorne who has established himself as a real threat from the top of the circle. Gleghorne has netted 19 times for England and GB and looks set to add to that tally if he continues to show his prowess from set pieces as he has done in recent times.

Australia are not exactly short of options either. Perhaps their biggest threat is that of Chris Ciriello. The giant defender, nicknamed “The Big Dog” took the World Cup in The Hague by storm, bagging seven goals in the competition and famously, a hat-trick of penalty corners in the 6-1 win over the Netherlands which fired his team to final glory. Not content with that, Ciriello then repeated the feat in the Commonwealth Games final just months later, with a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over India, taking his tally for the competition to nine goals. He is all about raw power but his ability to find the net on the big stage has become a  nice habit.

Australia have plenty of established alternative options, perhaps one of the most exciting ones is that of rising star Blake Govers, brother of World Cup winner Kieran. Whilst Govers, who is just 18, made his international debut at the start of May, he forced his way into the Kookaburras squad with goals in each of his first three games against Pakistan, Korea and New Zealand. Fans of the domestic game in this country will no doubt remember Govers’ blistering display in this season’s Championship Final where he scored five times in Wimbledon’s incredible 8-5 victory over East Grinstead. A precocious talent he is, but Great Britain fans will hope he cannot repeat the feat on the same site as his five-goal bonanza.

GB defend a penalty corner

Whilst all the focus is on the firepower on offer, one should not underestimate the necessity of a quality penalty corner defence. This is something that Great Britain have worked very hard on, and with Dan Fox and Mikey Hoare proving to be brave and skilful penalty corner defenders whilst skipper Barry Middleton displays Jedi-like reflexes on the line, the home side will surely make Ciriello and Govers work for their chances.

The drama and spectacle of some of the best penalty corner attack and defence around should be an exciting sub-plot to this titanic battle.

If you'd like to see Great Britain at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as they face World Champions Australia on 13 June you can still buy tickets. This one-off international is the last chance to see Great Britain men on home soil this summer. For further information including how to buy tickets click here.