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Kookaburra has the last laugh

HIS goal secured Australia a place in the Champions Trophy final, but a running battle with India's captain might keep down Kieran Govers' price on the subcontinent.

Govers and Indian superstar Sardar Singh featured in a couple of heated exchanges during their sides' Champions Trophy semi-final, first with words and then with a decent bump in which the pair clashed heads. As both players nursed sore heads, the umpires called on them to cool it in the roasting conditions on the pitch. But while Govers put out his hand as a peace offering, the Australian was less than impressed when his opponent offered only his stick in return.

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Australia will chase history in the final of the FIH men's Champions Trophy following their semi-final victory on Saturday.

What impact the incident has on Govers' currency in the coming player auction for the Indian Premier League-style Hockey India League, in which Sardar is one of the marquee players, is yet to be known.

But as far as this tournament is concerned, the Kookaburra was the one laughing. Within minutes, Govers extended Australia's lead to 3-0 after Trent Mitton dished up a gift of a goal.

Govers played down the incidents afterwards but admitted the goal lifted his mood considerably.

''Exactly. The coach said to focus on the next task, so I don't dwell on that sort of stuff and leave it on the field,'' he said. ''I'm not going to say too much, but with the second one we just clashed. I've got a splitting headache now but I stood up, because I didn't want to be a big girl and stay on the ground.''


While Govers won't be as popular in India for the moment, the same could be said for Jamie Dwyer, although the Kookaburras superstar surely lifted his already high standing there with a brilliant early display.

Dwyer was lurking in the perfect place early in the match when India's defenders could only parry the ball from an Australian penalty corner, and slotted home the opener.

He added a penalty stroke soon after he was bundled over by Indian defender V.R. Raghunath.

With the game sewn up in the second half, Dwyer only just missed landing a hat-trick by firing wide across the goal after drawing a couple of opponents to him.

Govers' goal aside, Australia failed to land the killer blow in the second half, although the cool change provided the relief.

Assistant coach Graham Reid, in charge this tournament while Ric Charlesworth watches from the stands, bemoaned several missed opportunities after half-time, but was pleased with another strong defensive showing.

The result earned Australia a fourth successive clean sheet this tournament - the Kookaburras have now gone about five hours of play since conceding a goal, in their opening game against Belgium - and Govers said the defensive effort would be the springboard in the gold-medal match.

''We base our game on our defence,'' he said. ''If we have a crap defence, we won't win any games. If we defend really well, we attack really well.''

As was the case in Australia's quarter-final win over Great Britain, the visitors rarely looked like scoring.

India, which had a disastrous Olympic tournament but had recovered to top its pool and beat Belgium in its quarter-final, had the chance to keep things interesting late in the game but twice had penalty corners denied on video referrals.

Australia has little recent form to draw on against the Netherlands ahead of Sunday's final, having missed out on playing the Dutch at the London Olympics and drawing their pool game last week.

Govers said the Kookaburras could not afford to be wasteful when given the chance. ''It was 0-0 in the round game and we had 11 corners and didn't score any, but we're putting some in at the moment, which is good. Hopefully, we can get those opportunities tomorrow and slot a few,'' he said.

The final between Australia and the Netherlands begins at 4pm at the State Netball Hockey Centre.