2010 Trans Tasman Series, Auckland New Zealand, 26 – 30 July, 2010
The Trans Tasman series for 2010 was held in Auckland New Zealand, 26 – 30 July. The competition is held biennially and traditionally also included the Southern Hemisphere Competition in a combined format which this year was a triple round robin. Games between Australia and New Zealand determine the winner of the Trans Tasman, whilst the top 2 teams go into a final to determine the Southern Hemisphere Championship.
This year had a bit more confusion added to it because of the transition we are going through towards the CMAS World Championships in 2011. The Trans Tasman cycle occurs in odd years and was last held in Melbourne 2009 so the event for the first time was held in successive years. Also the absence of South Africa from this tournament (last participated in 2005) has caused us to abandon the Southern Hemisphere Charter and we are currently trying to create something in its place. The final this year was played for the Auckland Cup.
The absence of the Southern Hemisphere Charter made for a messy run up to the tournament with bothAustralia and NZ still negotiating the structure of the comp after Australia had arrived at the tournament. However, once the comp gets started all that stuff is quickly forgotten as teams begin to focus on the immediacy of surviving the games coming up.
New Zealand def Australia
Australia def New Zealand
Do you have any other pics from this competition to share with us? We are particularly looking for names and photos of each of the teams that played in this competition. Please email communicationsofficer [at] underwaterhockeyaustralia [dot] org [dot] au" href="mailto://communicationsofficer [at] underwaterhockeyaustralia [dot] org [dot] au" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">communicationsofficer [at] underwaterhockeyaustralia [dot] org [dot] au with any photos including the date and competition that was played and the names of the people in the photo.
First, a report by Tom Solopotias, as Australian Womens Team Coach, and then Arnie Piccoli's report as Australian Mens Team Coach.
From the women's perspective it was an engrossing and tightly fought contest. Three teams were entered;Australia, New Zealand elite and New Zealand u23's. Both NZ teams played a similar style so for Australia it was like playing a standard and "high performance" version of the same team. This worked to our favour as we get more opportunities to try things out in the standard version before our next high performance encounter.
What makes the Trans Tasman so engaging is that Australia and NZ have very different game philosophies. NZ play a structure that changes depending on the game requirements and is designed to maximise numbers on the puck whilst also resting key positions in an unusual rotation cycle. Their game is quite confined and aims for depth as opposed to width. Australia on the other hand look to exploit space and bring players into the game in a far less structure way.
It made for great viewing. The style difference was plainly obvious, even to the untrained eye. You could see exactly who had the upper hand and exactly where the transition points were as the games ebbed and flowed between the 2 teams. The main distinguishing point was how well the NZ's are drilled and understand what they should be doing at any moment. Once they have their recognised setup in place they milk it for all its worth and are a formidable opponent to break through.
When you watch Australians play you can distinguish the individual flair and skill that each player brings to the game and to each encounter. For NZ all their players seem to have the same sort of skills and use them in the same sort of situations. NZ are more concerned about maintaining a system and using it to grind opponents into submission.
The other big distinguishing feature about the NZ game, and they are the best at, is tacking frees. They come up with interesting variations that also have a high success rate. I explore different frees at every competition but have yet to produce one that is anywhere as effective as a NZ one. They are quite novel in their approach to frees, tending to stack areas that you don't expect and work hard at isolating our defensive options. NZ are quality performers with a proven pedigree at the highest level. From a coaching perspective it was a valuable opportunity to take on one of the best teams around and use that experience as a building opportunity as we move towards Columbia 2011.
NZ also have a fantastic school program and introduce heaps of people to the sport. However, one of the comments the NZ throw at us all the time is that they have a young team largely due to the fact that they have an enormous attrition rate from the sport. Interestingly, Australia is the opposite where we have a poor introduction rate but keep players in the game for much longer. My guess is that the difference is about our playing philosophy in that the Australian game encourages a self expressive style, relying heavily on individuals to put there stamp on the game and make a difference at a personal level. If we could combine NZ development program with Australia's way of playing, my guess is that underwater hockey will become our national sport by 2020.
Prior to the comp I envisaged that we would do much better than we did. Our team was one of the strongest I've ever taken away and I thought that quality would carry us through. Add to this the advantage of having standard and high performance games, but in the end we did make hard work of it and largely because I misjudged a number of key issues.
Australia won the Trans Tasman on the back of 2 draws and one win (score 2:2, 3:2, 3:3). Both countries meet again in the final for the Auckland cup and it produced one of the most entertaining games I've ever seen. It was a bit like watching the World Cup except that the 40 days of cup viewing was compressed into a 40 minute time frame. For those who have followed the fortunes of the Australian Womens team over recent years you will have notices a distinct pattern in their finals encounters. They tend to be games that carry a lot of excitement, close encounters typified by final seconds gasping efforts. The games are ones that sway unpredictable, where players, coaches and officials all take turns in losing the plot, where the unexpected becomes the norm. The games hang by a thread, the result sits on a knifes edge, and in the end; Australia wins.
The final had a bit of every thing. Australia got off to a trademark blistering 4:1 lead as the 1st half drew to a close. I expected NZ to just role over and die but they just continued to claw their way back into the game. We made a few errors that led to 7 send outs, we gave away a penalty and we were forced to restructure our forward line. Eventually with 30 seconds left on the clock NZ finally got a deserving equaliser that took the game into extra time.
The break was just long enough for Australia to resettle and get back into a rhythm putting away 2 quick goals in a 3 minute period of the 1st extra time period. The 2nd extra time saw NZ come out on fire but could only mange a single late goal. A wonderful goal fest of a game with Australia winning 6:5.
Tom Solopotias, Aust. Womens Team Coach
Australian Mens Team
After months of indecision by NZ, we finally got a date and finalised our teams only a month out. I decided to go with just 10 players as those preceding months played havoc with player plans and numbers. We had 2 new caps in the team, and given that I felt it was an interim year, it would be good to see those boys in the furnace of a solid round robin tournament without the usual breaks players get with a 12 man rotation. We arrived in Auckland to some reasonable weather and great accommodation organized by Lucy, the Australian Teams manager. On using the pool for the first time, I felt it was the best pool I had seen anywhere in the world; fast, 4 walls, 25 x15 m, and made for hockey. We had a good mix in the team, with experience, youth, and some solid all-round players. I planned on changing our game plan that we developed in the last Worlds to something I would like to take to the Columbia Worlds next year. We had 3 days as our on-the-spot camp to make some change ups before the comp started on the Tuesday. The schedule was tough with 3 games a day and 2 on the Friday to make a total of 11 games in 3 and a half days of play. That is as much game play as you would expect from a Worlds in 10 days let alone in 3 and a half days. This certainly tested the boys without a rotation and, in the end, may have cost them the chance to finish strongly in what showed to be a very strong comp. New Zealand fielded 3 teams: their national side made up of 12 young fit players, a Barbartions team made up of experienced players who were either too old to be in the first team or too lazy to do the work, and an U23 team who were the next best players behind the first team.
Our first game with NZ initially went well, with us being 3-1 up for most of the game, only to lose it in the final seconds 3-4 after a few guys got kicked out late in the game. Next were the Barbs, which followed a similar script, with us up 4-0 for most of the game then finishing 4-4 at full time. We then went on a scoring spree with the U23's late in the day.
After the first day I was indifferent with the results, as I felt fitness late in those matches may well have determined the final scores. The next day, we were out pointed in the first game 4-0 and NZ deserved the win and the Trans Tasman trophy that went with it. But to the boys credit, they rebounded after that result to beat the Barbars 13-1, with a similar result in the U23's. At this stage the players felt they where starting to get the change ups in play and the next morning we fought out a 3-3 draw with New Zealand. We then beat the Barbars and the 23's, to have a good last day. The final question was whether 11 games would take their toll, and after beating the Barbars in a tough 7-6 win in the morning, it was then just up to the last game at 3pm that day.
The boys fed and slept well proir to the game and after a great start and many chances on the goal tray in the first half, we started to wane and they struck back, getting 2 late goals in that half to be in control. The second half started the same, with some great work to get the puck on to the tray. But with none of those chances being taken, it was then just a matter of time and the flood gates opened and they quickly took the match away from us and won 7/1. The scoreline was not flattering, but I am sure it will spur the team on to do the work and never let fitness get in the way of winning again. The new players saw how they will need to play at the elite level and the other things that they will need to do to make sure that in a tough tournament they will be the last men standing.
Looking ahead, we have 4 Australian players going to Columbia this month to play and to experience the country and facilities for next year’s Worlds. And with the addition of players who were not available for the Trans Tasman, we will have a hungry talented group to pick from to make the ultimate assault on the World title.
Arnie Piccoli, Aust. Mens Team Coach