Eager Aussies aim for Olympic hockey clean sweep

Anger has given way to excitement as Australia's men's hockey team look to hold all the sport's major titles by winning gold at the London Olympics.

Heading into the Games, coach Ric Charlesworth was far from content.

Indeed he was furious when the draw gave his team three 8:30am games, which he said would require players to wake up at 5:00am in a major disruption to their daily tournament routine.

At the same time, reigning Olympic champions Germany avoided the early time slot altogether in the opposite group.

Hockey Australia fired in an official protest and the Federation of International Hockey said it has re-scheduled Australia v Pakistan on August 7 from 8:30am to 10:45am.

South Korea against the Netherlands will be switched to the earlier start while Australia begin their quest for gold against South Africa on Monday.

"I'm excited, I can't wait," said Australia's Simon Orchard, who is competing in his first Olympics.

"I don't struggle with nerves at all," added Orchard, whose cousin Stephen Holt played for the Australian hockey team at the 2000 Sydney Games.

In multiple world player of the year Jamie Dwyer, Australia have a potential man of the tournament but Charlesworth has concerns about the relatively recently laid blue and pink Olympic Park artificial pitch.

"The pitch is an issue," he said. "The ball bobbles a fair bit. It doesn't reward skill."

New Zealand appear to be timing their bid for Games glory in style after winning the prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia with a 1-0 victory over Argentina.

The Black Sticks haven't won men's Olympic field hockey gold since 1976 and, although ranked seventh in the world to Australia's first, could pose a threat.

"It is great to have won our first Sultan Azlan Shah Cup," said New Zealand coach Shane McLeod. "But we still have a fair bit of work to do before the Games start."

Eight-time champions India return to Olympic Games hockey, having failed to qualify for Beijing four years ago, although, given the last of their gold medals came back in 1980, they are not expected to be on the podium in London.

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