The Hockeyroos begin their journey towards Tokyo this weekend with the start of the FIH Pro League.
The Waterloo Ducks Hockey Club (WatDucks) completed a remarkable victory on Monday, defeating German powerhouse Rot-Weiss Koln 4-0 in the Euro Hockey League (EHL) final.
In only their seventh appearance of 12 editions of the EHL, they overcame the loss of Belgian international Simon Gougnard midway through the first quarter to injury as well as the absence of French captain Victor Charlet (injury) for the entire KO16.
They become the first Belgian club side to lift the EHL title.
The Belgian side proved superb in defence and counter punched their way to victory in the final. The went into the match as underdogs having navigated their way through their two previous KO16 matches, with shootout wins following 1-1 draws against both Surbiton HC (England) and fellow Belgian side KHC Dragons, who themselves had fallen at the final hurdle back in 2013 to HC Bloemendaal (Netherlands).
The first quarter proved to be one where both sides looked to test each other without giving anything away however, the withdrawal of Gougnard through injury paved the way for Rot-Weiss. Captain Mats Grambusch asserted their authority into the second quarter, with two clear opportunities, but the WatDucks held firm through goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch.
The game came to life in the third quarter with Rot-Weiss continuing to apply the pressure. German international Marco Miltkau had the best chance of the match palmed away by Vanasch, before Eric Knobling had a goal disallowed for a foot infringement. WatDucks utilised a small period of dominance with the ball themselves to manufacture the first goal of the game, through a William Ghislain field goal, in the 42nd minute.
However, they found themselves defending with only 10 players and two field players down in the last minute of the third quarter as Rot-Weiss used a green card to WatDucks captain John-John Dohmen as an opportunity to substitute goalkeeper Victor Aly for an extra field player and turn the screws, but the WatDucks defence held firm.
The final quarter saw Rot-Weiss continue to control the ball and create opportunity after opportunity. Consecutive WatDucks green cards for Jeremy Wilbers (50th minute) and Ghislain (52nd Minute) provided Rot-Weiss with their best chances, Mats Grambusch hitting the post before being denied again by Vanasch.
As Rot-Weiss sought to find a way to goal they again substituted goalkeeper Victor Aly. The WatDucks defence was superb, picking up enough intercepts in and around their defensive circle to allow a counter-attack through Renaud Pangrazio to earn a penalty corner in the 5eighth minute which Gauthier Boccard duly converted to put the WatDucks 2-0 in front.
The final minute saw two more WatDuck counter attacks to blow the scoreline out to 4-0 and clinch the 2019 title.
2018 World Goalkeeper of the year and Belgian World Cup winner Vincent Vanasch was named player of the final, following some outstanding saves in the first half and early in the third quarter.
Whilst WatDucks younger Ghislain, who was later awarded ABN Amro Talent of the EHL, proved the gamebreaker with his 42nd minute field goal breaking the deadlock and bringing the game to life, while his assist in the 60th minute for Maxine Bertrand’s field goal, was brilliant and decisive.
It was a moment to savour following the result for WatDucks captain John-John Dohmen, himself a former World Player of the Year (2016), having been forced to withdraw from the Belgian national side’s victorious World Cup campaign in late 2018 after just two games with respiratory concerns.
This final was one he relished, with his commanding presence in defence and composure on the ball one of the keys to the WatDucks victory.
“We had never done a good campaign in the EHL,” he said. “It’s the first time we have shown our real level. Of course, we had to defend a lot because Rot Weiss were really good but that was part of the strategy, to defend hard with courage, and we showed a lot of character,” Dohmen said following their victory.
The bronze medal match saw Mannheimer Hockey Club (Germany) overcome Real Club de Polo (Spain) 3-1, with Gonzalo Peillat the hero with two penalty corner goals. (Video Uploaded).
The 2019 edition of the EHL was the first to not feature a team from the Netherlands in the Final 4 after Rot-Weiss knocked out both SV Kampong (KO16) and Amsterdam Handamp;BC (KO8) and THC Uhlenhorst Mulheim (Germany) knocked out hosts Oranje-Rood (KO16).
2020 will see more changes to the EHL with the first edition of the women’s version set to be played alongside the men.