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Olympic heartbreak helps drive Kookaburras

Kookaburras forward Tom Wickham says the pain of the team’s Olympic near-miss still burns and the lessons learned have helped drive the players on.

The Australian men’s hockey team missed out on gold in Tokyo when they lost the final to Belgium in a penalty shootout.

Wickham had scored in the final quarter of that match with a sensational slam-dunk style goal after the ball ricocheted high, with his moment of magic levelling the scores at 1-1.

But Belgium proved too good in the shootout, with the Kookaburras’ Olympic gold drought now standing at 18 years.

This year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham marks the Kookaburras’ first major tournament since last year’s Olympics and Wickham says the team is ready to go.

“It was a really tough pill to swallow,” Wickham said of the Olympic heartbreak.

“It went down to the wire and the chips could have fallen either way.

“We had a great tournament. We played really well, but we got pipped at the end.

“We have to be able to build on that and grow as a group, so we can continue to succeed.

“You take the lessons from it, be real about it and let the emotions be there. Let it burn and let it be a thing to grow from.”

The Kookaburras are aiming for a seventh straight Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham.

Although many fans expect the world No.1 Kookaburras to cruise to another gold, Wickham says the players aren’t taking anything for granted.

“I think that’s a dangerous mindset to have if you just expect you’re going to win,” he said.

“We expect to be in the final, we have high expectations of ourselves. We’re not going there to finish second.

“But for us it’s just a matter of building through the tournament, playing our best hockey and making sure we’re in that final to give ourselves an opportunity to win gold.”

The Kookaburras have South Africa, New Zealand, Scotland and Pakistan in their pool, with bigger threats to come after that.

“India are always dangerous. They’re fast, skilful, counter-attacking,” Wickham said.

“England are another threat. They’re a well structured, well drilled team.

“NZ are another one. Any team is a threat if you think you’re just going to walk in and beat them.”

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