Commonwealth GamesSport

Wimbledon Waller: ‘England ready for semi-final Commonwealth clash with Australia’

By Max Hall

England men’s hockey team will face Commonwealth kings Australia in the semi-finals on Sunday – and Wimbledon’s Jack Waller says they are primed and ready.

“I think we always knew we were going to be playing Australia, whether it was in the semi-final or in the final, so we’re really excited to play them,” said the Wimbledon defender.

“I know, in 20-odd years of the Commonwealth Games, they’ve only lost one game. We’re looking to change that in the semi-final.”

England’s 11-2 demolition of Canada in their final group game, aided by a red card for the visitors’ Balraj Panesar, was not enough to top the group ahead of a free-scoring India side with whom they drew 4-4 on Monday.

But Waller was looking at the positives.

“There are some obvious frustrations. Whenever we put in a performance that’s not perfect, we’re disappointed,” he said, “and perfection’s impossible to achieve. Overall it’s positive. We’ve scored a lot of goals, we’re a fairly new group coming together, very new coaching staff, we put in a lot of processes, and we’re looking really good.

“It’s really about peaking at the right time. The semi-final and the final is where you want to find your best game, so we’re really excited about that.”

England had flown out of the blocks in a manner which suggested they were very much going for the group title as Phillip Roper scored inside two minutes but a shock leveller from Brendan Guraliuk saw them close the first period 1-1.

After Nick Bandurak restored the hosts’ lead Liam Ansell – one of three Wimbledon players in the England side, along with David Condon – calmed nerves with a third at Birmingham University.

The red card for Panesar, after a coming together with Christopher Griffiths four seconds before half time, brought the prospect of a second-half run chase and the score advanced to 5-1 after Waller dribbled into the opposing area to win a penalty corner.

With the clock ticking down in the final quarter, England took off their goalkeeper and tried to pepper the Canadian goal with shots. At 8-1 down, Canada brought on back-up keeper Ethan McTavish, to the delight of a section of the crowd. He supplied one flying right-handed stop before again making way for James Mazarelo.

Canada immediately went up the other end, and Guraliuk killed off England’s hopes by firing into an unguarded net for 10-2 with 4min51sec remaining, England adding one more goal late on.


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