HOCKEY FIH KOOKABURRAS GREAT BRITAIN
The Kookaburras have produced their most polished performance of the year, crushing Great Britain 5-1, and coach Colin Batch feels the best is yet to come as his team march towards the Tokyo Olympics.
Australia, having won last year's Pro League final, surrendered the world No.1 ranking to Belgium with a pair of losses to the World Cup holders last weekend.
They needed two final-quarter goals to escape with a penalty-shootout win over Great Britain on Saturday but Sunday's triumph at Sydney Olympic Park proved far more clinical.
Dylan Wotherspoon, Tom Craig and Lachlan Sharp scored to build a 3-1 halftime lead for the hosts.
The Kookaburras continued to attack fiercely and fluently in the third quarter, creating a stack of chances before Tim Brand's deflection capped a brilliant team goal in the 45th minute.
The onslaught, all the more impressive given the injury-enforced absence of star striker Blake Govers, continued when Trent Mitton also got on the scoreboard in the 55th minute.
Australia's defence was just as impressive as their work in the circle.
"There was some emphasis on our defensive intensity, that was much better," Batch said.
"In the first three games we had 10 goals scored against us, so we definitely need to tidy up our defence.
"We're not at the same level as we were last year but it was only towards the end of that year that we got to that level."
The Hockeyroos are hunting their first Olympic gold medal since 2004, having crashed out at the quarter-final stage of the 2016 Games.
"We've spoken about being fresh and energised for the Olympics. We don't want people entering that event flat," Batch said.
"We've got a strong group, a lot of depth. So we'll be using all that depth throughout the year.
"We're improving, getting some good connections and momentum."
Batch must trim the current 27-man squad to an Olympic touring party of 16.
That challenge didn't get easier on the weekend, when Nathan Ephraums and Kurt Lovett impressed on debut.
Lovett seemingly scored in the final second of Sunday's match, triggering wild scenes as the Kookaburras rushed over to celebrate with the local product.
But a video review resulted in Lovett's goal being scratched because time had already run out.
"The boys got around me regardless, being my first game," Lovett said.
"I probably should have looked at the clock a bit quicker.
"It's a hectic year with Tokyo. Everything points towards Tokyo - we're thinking gold medal, we want that."