They’re the world’s best hockey team but Australia’s men have two brutal losses on their minds ahead of the World Cup in India.
The Kookaburras stormed to a seventh-straight Commonwealth Games title last year and have won 10 World Cup medals in total, three of them gold.
But the pain of losses in the 2018 World Cup semi-final (The Netherlands) and 2021 Olympics final (Belgium), both in shoot-outs that followed extra time, still lingers.
Five players will make Cup debuts in Bhubaneswar when their tournament, regarded as second in stature behind the Games, begins against France on Friday night.
But only two players have less than 63 games of experience.
Co-captain and 402-gamer Eddie Ockenden was there for both of those losses, as well as two World Cup triumphs in 2010 and 2014.
“For sure (it still stings),” coach Colin Batch said.
“This is a new group and a new squad but there are a lot of players who went through both of those campaigns.
“We went very close at the 2018 World Cup and in Tokyo but didn’t come home with the gold medal so that motivation needs to be ongoing and drive the performance.”
“We feel we are better positioned and more experienced for this campaign, but we have to achieve the goal.
“It can’t be a case of just talking about it … it’s a case of producing when it counts.”
Australia are ranked No.1 in the world and average 3.3 goals a game in World Cups and only twice missed the medals in 12 Cup instalments since 1975.
But the world is catching up, with Olympic and world champions Belgium an obvious hurdle.
England are keen to back up their Commonwealth Games campaign that saw them leading Australia 2-0 in the semi-final before the Kookaburras squeaked out a victory.
Australia also have Argentina and South Africa in their pool, while Germany are a force again and world No.6 India will have the benefit of a pulsing home crowd.
“People may talk that (No.1 ranking) up but the reality is everyone starts fresh at this tournament,” Batch said.
“There are a lot of good teams here and we’re not looking any further than France who have had some consistent performances in Europe.
“We last played them here at the 2018 World Cup in the quarter-finals so we know they’re capable of playing well.
“We know they will throw everything at us.”
KOOKABURRAS: Daniel Beale, Josh Beltz, Tim Brand, Andrew Charter, Tom Craig, Matthew Dawson, Johan Durst, Nathan Ephraums, Blake Govers, Jake Harvie, Jeremy Hayward, Tim Howard, Eddie Ockenden, Flynn Ogilvie, Lachlan Sharp, Jake Whetton, Tom Wickham, Aran Zalewski.
v France, Friday January 13 (8.30pm AEDT)
v Argentina, Wednesday January 18 (12.30am AEDT)
v South Africa, Friday January 20 (6.30pm AEDT)