Veterans feeling heat of youth
FOR eight years, Hockeyroos star Teneal Attard has been motivated by the memory of the golden era and a desire to add another storied chapter to one of the country's most revered sporting teams.
The veteran defender made her Hockeyroos debut at the 2004 Champions Trophy in Argentina.
That tournament took place a couple of months after Australia finished fifth at the Athens Olympics, and four years after the side's momentous gold-medal performance at the Sydney Games.
Australia has three gold medals from the past six Olympics but, tellingly, none since Sydney.
Attard said yesterday that she could sense something special was brewing as the side - now ranked No.7 in the world, and due to meet the US tonight in the first of three Tests at Buderim's Ballinger Hockey Complex - prepared for this year's London Olympics and a shot at redemption.
"The Hockeyroos have such a rich history," she said.
"Obviously, being part of such an amazing team you're very proud, and we've been pushing for the last six, seven, eight years to get back to where we were.
"The last couple of years, I've really seen a difference.
"I believe we've got a real chance in London. So I'm quite excited."
Attard believes the side's decline following Sydney was the result of a lack of belief and skill as it went through a rebuilding period after key players retired.
But the Queensland Scorcher said the younger players coming through were spurring the more seasoned squad members to perform better, a situation that had led to a string of impressive performances over the past 12 months.
Chief among the confidence-building results was a 4-1 win over world No.1 the Netherlands while touring Argentina in January.
The Aussies also beat world No.3 Germany on that tour, which followed a 2-0 away series defeat of the US.
"I think the competitiveness in the squad has helped," Attard said.
"The old girls can't relax. They have to keep getting better because all the young ones are coming through trying to take our spots."
Personally, the 125-Test servant could not feel better.
She is almost a certainty to be selected for London, but does not want to look too far ahead.
"The squad's very competitive, so my spot's certainly not guaranteed," she said. "I have to keep working hard the next couple of months to make sure I'm in."