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Kooka-brothers to push Olympic case on Europe trip

3 minute read

A 22-man Kookaburras squad to tour Europe next month will be reduced to 16 for the side's Olympic hockey charge in Paris in July and August.

Beltz brothers Hayden and Josh will be reunited in gold for the Kookaburras' final fling before coach Colin Batch settles on his Paris Olympics squad.

A 22-man Australia squad to play FIH Pro League games in Belgium and England from May 30 was named on Thursday.

Hobart's Hayden Beltz (seven caps) is the only member of the squad to have played fewer than 35 games for his country, while long-time Kookaburra Eddie Ockenden (438) is included as he eyes a record fifth Games later this year.

"Some of the toughest matches I've had have been in the backyard against Hayden growing up," 112-Test veteran Josh Beltz said.

"He's been playing well for a long time, so I'm stoked he's getting his opportunity. It's always fun running out there together."

Batch said he wanted to cast the net one final time before naming the 16-man squad that will hunt gold in France in July and August.

Mainstays Tom Craig, Blake Govers and Tim Howard have been included after missing the 5-0 sweep of India in Perth last month with injury.

But potent drag-flick specialist Joel Rintala, who scored a first-half hat-trick in just his second Test last April, has been ruled out with a leg problem.

It's the latest in a brutal run of injury blows for Rintala, with the Queenslander's hopes of joining his partner, the Australian swimmer Shayna Jack, in Paris in grave doubt.

The Kookaburras' only Olympic title came 20 years ago in Athens.

The side were beaten in a shoot-out for gold by Belgium in Tokyo three years ago.

They sit second on the Pro League ladder with six wins and a draw from eight games and will present in Paris as genuine contenders.

"It's always tough, we've got a lot of depth, there are a lot of good players in the squad and some good players are missing out," Batch said of the cut-throat nature of selections.

"It's tough to get in and stay there, so players need to keep performing."

The Kookaburras play Belgium, Germany, Argentina and Great Britain twice each, in games located in Antwerp and London, between May 30 and June 13.

KOOKABURRAS SQUAD: Daniel Beale, Hayden Beltz, Josh Beltz, Tim Brand, Andrew Charter, Tom Craig, Matt Dawson, Johan Durst, Nathan Ephraums, Blake Govers, Jake Harvie, Jeremy Hayward, Tim Howard, Eddie Ockenden, Flynn Ogilvie, Lachlan Sharp, Jack Welch, Corey Weyer, Jake Whetton, Tom Wickham, Ky Willott, Aran Zalewski.

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