Australia are world champions once again, defending their hockey World Cup title with a 6-1 demolition of the Netherlands.
The win, which five-time world-player-of-the-year Jamie Dwyer described as better than their 2010 title, capped off a superb tournament in which Australia had utterly outclassed every opponent they encountered.
“For me this is better (than 2010). To win a World Cup 6-1 is incredible. It’s unheard of,” Dwyer told AAP.
Powerful defender, and penalty corner specialist, Chris Ciriello was the hattrick hero as Australia dismantled the Dutch to silence the raucous home crowd in the Hague.
But it was a ruthless approach taken throughout the tournament, starting with skipper and player-of-the-tournament Mark Knowles, which characterised the win.
Across the tournament Australia amassed 30 goals, while conceding just three – a feat veteran coach Ric Charlesworth modestly described as “convincing”.
“I think we play the best hockey in the world,” Charlesworth said.
“We play a brand of hockey which is expansive, creative and quick.
“We have the best defence here by a long way. We conceded three goals, the next team maybe eight or nine? And we scored maybe 15 more goals than anyone else.”
Sunday was unquestionably the Kookaburras most dominant performance of the tournament – with Knowles saying it was as close to the perfect game as you could ask for.
“For mine, being a leader in the team is about encouraging and getting the best out of my teammates,” he said.
“Today we went pretty close to that I reckon.”
Ciriello’s hattrick took his tournament tally to seven goals – second only to Argentina’s Gonzalo Peillat (10).
But he was joined on the scoresheet by Australia’s second leading scorer Kieran Govers (five tournament goals), Glenn Turner and Dwyer.
Govers’ spectacular reverse stick shot from the top of the circle shortly before halftime, which gave Australia a 2-1 buffer at the break, proved pivotal – as did Turner’s persistent effort minutes into the second half.
Dwyer’s scheming solo effort put a dagger through Dutch hearts, capping off a remarkable victory and a special occasion for him, as he equalled Jay Stacy’s record of 321 Kookaburra appearances.
In truth, the game was killed off when Ciriello buried two more goals with his deadly flick as the lead reached four goals – a margin greater than the number of goals Australia conceded all tournament.
But despite the healthy advantage Australia’s commitment to defence never waned.
At one point midfielders Simon Orchard and Liam de Young sprinted back 50 metres to defuse a promising Dutch counter-attack – a move which quickly turned into a goal at the other end.
“We saw a couple of what I would class absolutely outstanding individual things today,” Knowles said.
“The goals are great but Simon Orchard and Liam de Young chasing back. That’s what we’re all about.”
Throughout the tournament Australia have earned plaudits for their blistering starts – they went five consecutive games scoring a goal in the opening seven minutes.
But it was the Dutch who drew first blood, with Jeroen Hertzberger scoring an exceptional solo goal in which he evaded Robert Hammond’s tackle before firing a tomahawk past Andrew Charter, who had a terrific tournament.
“It was a slight hiccup to go one-nil down, but at no stage did I feel that the game was away or that we couldn’t win it,” Knowles said.
“You don’t just get belief of winning finals just from the first attempt. This has been going on for years on end for our group.”