INCENSED by an "unfair" Olympic draw, compared with the British hosts' "very comfortable" schedule, Australian hockey bosses - backed by the national Olympic Committee - are appealing to the sport's international governing body for a correction.
Kookaburras coach and hockey great Ric Charlesworth told the Herald last night he had never known a world-leading team to be so disadvantaged by a competition schedule. Asked whether it could cost his world No.1-ranked team a gold medal in London, he replied: "who knows?"
The draw for the men's competition at the London Games has Australia playing three of six matches in the round-robin tournament at 8.30am. It means the Australian team will need to rise at 5am three times to compete during a gruelling 13-day event that climaxes with an evening gold medal final. Great Britain, by comparison, have been given three matches starting at 7pm and two at 4pm. Australia's only night match is when they play the hosts.
Rise and shine ... The Kookaburras will have to wake up at 5.30am to play games at 8.30am, much to the ire of coach Ric Charlesworth. In contrast, the British side will play all their games in the afternoon or evening. Photo: Melissa Adams
"It's crazy," Charlesworth said. "And it's not like we're the 12th-ranked team in the tournament.
"How do you develop a routine around that program? At the Olympics it's hard enough as it is … and there's little difference between the best things. Small things make a difference. It already worries me that there are a range of things that we have wanted for this tournament and recent tournaments that we've been told 'no' to. I think they're trying to make it difficult for us. I hope that's not the case."
Charlesworth speculated that his team's draw might be a result of requests from Australia's Olympic television broadcasters, the Nine Network and Foxtel, and added that would make him "very angry". However, the director of Foxtel's Olympic coverage, Peter Campbell, said the network had no say in the hockey schedule. The Australian Olympic Committee is supporting Hockey Australia in its formal appeal, which was to be sent overnight to the head of the sport's international governing body, FIH, from Hockey Australia's president Stuart Grimshaw.
Charlesworth has already expressed strong concerns about the Olympic pitch after a test event this month, though his criticisms were shared by coaches of the British, Germany and Indian teams.