Casey Eastham: Hockeyroos view golden era

Casey Eastham starring for the Hockeyroos against Germany at the Olympics. Picture: BRENDAN ESPOSITO

Casey Eastham starring for the Hockeyroos against Germany at the Olympics. Picture: BRENDAN ESPOSITO

HOCKEY

Australian stalwart Casey Eastham believes the Hockeyroos are on the verge of a special era, starting with their World Cup semi-final showdown with the United States in The Hague.

But harsh memories of recent failed campaigns still linger in the minds of Australia's women's team and half the squad couldn't watch as their finals fate was decided against South Korea on Monday.

A loss by the Dutch would have lifted South Korea to second in group A, relegating Australia to an early exit.

"There was a bit of relief. A few of the girls chose to watch, a few chose not to," Eastham said ahead of Thursday's semi-final.

"We'd done enough, probably, compared to what we'd done in previous tournaments.

"But goal difference has gone against us before, so you never know."

At just 25, Eastham is a senior member of the team, filling in as skipper for the early group matches while Madonna Blyth recovered from injury.

And she has been around the team long enough to draw on the heartache of the past three years: missing the semi-finals at the London Olympics hurt, as did being relegated from the Champions Trophy in 2011.

She has seen an enormous progression under Adam Commens, who took over as coach in 2011.

"At that stage we didn't have the depth in the squad in general," she said.

"When you see the men's team and the depth that they've got in their group it's something we've been striving for since then.

"There's been a significant shift post-Olympics. We did a lot of work physically and mentally to prepare ourselves. We've really worked hard on our culture.

"We've started setting standards and pillars and things that we really wanted to be looked at as a group - this is what the Hockeyroos represent."

By reaching the semi-finals, Australia have already moved from fourth to third in the world rankings. Next up is the Commonwealth Games, where they're the two-time defending champions. They will also be looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics.

But first they need to overcome the US - who secured top spot in group B - with four wins and a draw.

"It would be awesome to be in that final match," Eastham said. - AAP

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