Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter says the playing group was ''pretty shocked'' by coach Ric Charlesworth's abrupt departure, but is confident Australia will still defend its Commonwealth Games title.
Charlesworth was due to quit his post after the Commonwealth Games in August, but decided Australia's 6-1 World Cup final thrashing of The Netherlands was the perfect end to his glittering career.
Canberra product Charter and the rest of the squad were informed of Charlesworth's decision on Thursday. The 27-year-old says the winner of five World Cups and two Olympics golds as a player and coach is a huge loss, but it is not a fatal blow for their hopes at Glasgow.
"It was a massive surprise," Charter said. "His contract extension [he signed] after the Olympics was to go through to the Commonwealth Games, so we were pretty shocked. He kept it pretty quiet and didn't want to distract us at the World Cup.''
Charter backed Charlesworth's assistants Graham Reid and Paul Gaudoin, who have been preparing for Charlesworth's exit, to step up.
"It's massive shoes to fill, his resume over the last 10 years or so shows that,'' Charter said. "But throughout the World Cup and other big events, the assistant coaches have been taking on more of a head-coach role, a transition plan.
"They've been prepped pretty well to take over the reins, I think they'll be fine. I imagine Ric will probably step more into a consulting role.''
Charlesworth said the prospect of having to spend more time away from his family was the final straw in his decision to walk away before the team flies out for Glasgow next month.
‘‘I have thought about it a lot," he said. "The high point of my year was the World Cup. The team will be moving on and it’s my personal decision – I don’t want to be packing up and away for another three weeks.’’
Hockey Australia chief executive Cam Vale said an announcement on the coaching structure at the Games would be made in the next few days.
Graham Read, Charlesworth’s assistant coach, is likely to be a contender, along with former Olympians Colin Batch and Mark Hager, who’s the current coach of the New Zealand women’s side, also in the mix.
‘‘Ric told me of his intentions after Sunday’s final,’’ Vale said. ‘‘While I was initially disappointed, his reasoning makes sense and I accepted his decision.''
''I have full confidence in the staff and athletes that we can manage an interim solution towards our very important goal of Commonwealth Games success.'' with AAP