Commens fast-tracks hopefuls for Games
Adam Commens. Pic: WA News

The Hockeyroos will send one of their youngest and least experienced teams to London with goalkeeper Toni Cronk the only player with two Olympic campaigns to her credit.

Captain Madonna Blyth is one of seven remaining players from the Beijing team that finished a disappointing fifth but another four have been fast-tracked with experience at the 2010 World Cup.

WA features strongly, with five representatives led by world all-star Kobie McGurk, Hope Munro, Ashleigh Nelson, Jayde Taylor and Fiona Boyce - the only player in the team with an injury concern.

Cronk is the oldest in the team at 32, having played at two Olympics and three World Cups, including Madrid in 2006 where the Hockeyroos won silver. Munro is one of four players alongside Jade Close, Emily Smith and Jodie Schulz identified by coach Adam Commens when he took on the coaching job just 18 months ago.

The mother of two previously retired to look after her young family but was persuaded to rejoin the national squad by Commens.

Smith is the youngest in the team at 19 and has played just 22 Tests - marginally fewer than Kate Jenner (39) and Schulz (43).

Commens said the future looked great for the Hockeyroos, ranked seventh in the world, and the priority would be to negotiate the pool games against Argentina (No.2), Germany (No.3), New Zealand (No.6) and South Africa (No.12).

"This is a relatively young and inexperienced team with three players who are 20 or under making us the only team at the Olympics in this position," he said.

"One of our most experienced players is Casey Eastham, the baby of the Beijing team in 2008, and she is just 23.

"The future looks great and I would envisage we won't have more than two or three retirements after the Games and that means we have created good depth."

Commens said there was great potential in the group and it would be his job to try and realise that potential in the weeks before the start of the Olympics.

He said it had been difficult to prepare a team in 18 months but it had been a challenge and he idn't expect the team to reach its full potential for a few more years.

"We have some major tournament experience when you include the group of girls who went to the last World Cup, where they were relatively inexperienced, but this will be their second major tournament, even though the Olympics is a completely different challenge," Commens said.

"It is going to be an eye-opener for them even though most have now played a significant amount of international hockey and should have an idea of what to expect."

There were some injury concerns throughout the year but the group that has been selected is fit and healthy, with Boyce the only player with an issue after injuring a shoulder in Europe. She should be fit within the next couple of weeks.

There was strong competition for selection across the attack, midfield and defence but the process identified two outstanding penalty corner specialists in Anna Flanagan and Schulz.

I would envisage we won't have more than two or three retirements after the Games."Adam Commens

The West Australian

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