If the Kookaburras had driven their team bus at Dutch goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann yesterday, he’d have probably stopped it.
That was how impassable he was in Australia’s 0-0 draw with The Netherlands at the Champions Trophy men’s hockey tournament in Melbourne, making a string of breathtaking saves in a breathless match to deny the Kookaburras.
Stockmann’s two diving stops – one in each half – were among the best in international memory to keep his side in a game Australia will feel they should have won.
The result doesn’t do any immediate damage to Australia’s hopes of winning a fifth successive Champions Trophy – the tournament for the world’s top eight men’s hockey nations.
The Kookaburras remain unbeaten after a sluggish 4-2 win over Belgium to open the tournament.
Victory over Pakistan in their final Pool B match tomorrow night will be enough for a top two spot, and perhaps even to top the group and book the best possible quarter-final draw.
But the Kookaburras will need goals to ensure their goal difference is up to the mark should The Netherlands get a bag in tomorrow night’s other group match with Belgium.
And assistant coach Graham Reid admits even allowing for Stockmann’s heroics, the Kookaburras must start capitalising on the weight of chances, penalty corners and quality of play they produced for no scoreboard effect yesterday.
‘‘We’ve cast the cobwebs off from yesterday, but I think we can get better, and our corners need to improve,’’ said Reid, taking the match-day reins from head coach Ric Charlesworth for the tournament.
Stockmann gave the Kookaburras a taste of the frustration he was to dish out with a remarkable 23rd- minute stop, diving full length to his left and getting a full glove on Eddie Ockenden’s thunderous shot. Then he repelled a series of Chris Ciriello drag flicks, before stopping a Kieran Govers shot bound for goal before half-time.
Stockmann matched the quality of his first-half save just after the break, again diving high to his left to stop a Govers drag flick.
The Kookaburras could have pinched a winner with less than 10 seconds remaining, but diving striker Jacob Whetton was unable to get a stick on a drive into the circle.
Pakistan beat Belgium 2-0 in the other Pool B match yesterday, and sit on three points – a point adrift of the Australians and Dutch. The shock so far came in Pool A, with England stunning Olympic champions Germany 4-1.