Top favourites Oz have a new team at London Games

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Bangalore, Jul 14: The Australian men's hockey team, popularly known as the Kookaburras, have been on a roll in the last couple of years and will feel unhappy if they win anything less than gold at the London Games. The Kookaburras are the reigning champions in the World Cup, Champions Trophy, Commonwealth Games and Oceania Cup and will start as the outright favourites in this year's Olympics.

Australia had finished third at the Beijing Games four years ago after they lost to the runners-up, Spain, 2-3 in the semifinals. Since then, the Aussies, led by Jamie Dwyer, five-time World Player of the Year, did all that is required to win the top medal in London.

Head coach of the outfit Ric Charlesworth said the blue-end-pink turf, which will be used for this year's Olympics is bouncy and slippery, but felt his team would be able to adjust to it. The Australian squad comprises 10 Olympic debutants and selectors had a tough time selecting the final 16 from a vast pool of good talents. Charlesworth said several factors were taken into account before taking the final call on the final team. "This has been a year-long process," he said.

Australia's ploy in this regard is different from teams like Germany and Spain, the top two medal winners at Beijing, who have decided to retain most of their players from the 2008 Games. The Netherlands have dropped star players like Taeke Taekema and Jeroen Hertzberger but included veteran Teun de Nooijer, who was a part of the gold-winning teams of the 1996 and 2000 Games. The Netherlands finished fourth in the 2008 Games after going down 2-6 to Australia.

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