Hockeyroos' shootouts a tune-up for Tokyo

The Hockeyroos face defending Olympic champions Great Britain in the Pro League this weekend.
The Hockeyroos face defending Olympic champions Great Britain in the Pro League this weekend.

The Hockeyroos have been swotting and sweating in Sydney as they prepare for the prospect of more penalty shootouts this weekend in clashes with defending Olympic champions Great Britain.

There will be no shootouts during the group stage of the Tokyo Olympics but the much-maligned method of resolving a tie could be the difference between a gold and silver medal.

Shootouts are used throughout the Pro League, allowing Australia some opportunities to practice the high-pressure one-on-one contests in coming months.

Last weekend's season-opening clashes were both drawn, with the Hockeyroos winning Saturday's shootout then losing to Belgium the following day.

It was a similar story last year, when Australia won a Pro League semi-final shootout then lost the final on penalties.

"It's definitely helpful having them in the Pro League. Because otherwise you could get to an Olympic quarter-final and suddenly go to a shootout, having only practiced it at training," striker Grace Stewart said.

"We do put a fair bit of time into it. At the end of every session we'll do a couple of shootouts.

"Last year's Pro League semi and final show how important it is."

The Hockeyroos face Great Britain, who won their gold-medal shootout with Netherlands at Rio 2016, in Pro League double-headers at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Coach Paul Gaudoin, seeking to guide the Hockeyroos to their first Olympic medal since 2000, always hopes his team get the job done in regular time but can see the upside to more shootouts this weekend.

"Is it a fair way of doing it? It's irrelevant," Gaudoin said.

"We're very aware of their importance. Even before I started, the Hockeyroos have always put a lot of time into it.

"The Pro League gives us an opportunity to get better and expose more people to it. We don't know what that 16-player Olympic squad looks like right now, let alone the five (who could take penalties at the Games)."

Hockey shootouts involve an attacking player running with the ball at the keeper, as opposed to a single penalty stroke.

Luck can be a factor but Gaudoin noted practice, opposition research and adaptability play a big part.

"It's about having a feel for the moment and making good decisions," he said.

Australian Associated Press