Orchard leading from front with experience

Simon Orchard will take on a greater leadership role within the Kookaburras group for the Champions Trophy in London from Saturday.
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The Hunter product, who is poised to make his 200thappearance for Australia at the tournament next week, is the second most experienced player in the current squad.

FOCUS: Hunter hockey star Simon Orchard will take on extra responsibility for the Kookaburras at the Champions Trophy in London from Saturday as the second most experienced player in the Australian squad. Picture: Getty Images.

With captain Mark Knowles, five-time world player of the year Jamie Dwyer, 225-gamerFergus Kavanagh and Queenslander Matt Gohdes all being rested at home, only 2015 Kookaburras player of the year Eddie Ockenden has more caps than Orchard with 272.

It means Orchard, who has won every major international hockey title outside the Olympic gold medal on the radar for Rio in August, will have extra responsibility in the upcoming five matches starting with Great Britain.

“I’m really excited about the opportunities ahead,” Orchard said. “And with a few of our experienced boys at home I will have more of a leadership role within the group. Apart from Eddie I would probably have the most caps and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Orchard, who has 197 games to his name including an Olympic bronze medal in London four years ago, is set to notch up the double century Test milestone against reigning Olympic champions Germany on Monday (11pm AEST).

First up the Kookaburras takeon the hosts (Saturday, 3am AEST) before backing up 24 hours later against Korea(Sunday, 3am AEST).The final two round games present challenges with Belgium (Wednesday, 5am AEST) and Commonwealth Games runner’s-up India (Friday, 1am AEST).The 2016 Champions Trophy final, which Australia has won 13 times since 1978 including five of the last six deciders,has been scheduled for next Saturday.

The 16-man Olympic squad will be named soon after they return to their Perth training baseand Orchardit makes for a toughteam dynamic.

“It’s quite an interesting time for the group at the moment,” Orchard said. “It’s the difficult part of selection because there’s always people who miss out. You’ve just got to temper your emotions a bit because for every two players that get in, another one doesn’t.”

One of those in the mix is fellow Hunter productMatthew Dawson, who has one final chance to impressand earn a maiden Games spot.

“That’s the beauty of Champions Trophy because good performances can help with further selections,” Orchard said. “There’s a few new facesand it’s good to see Dawso in there.”

On the women’s side of the draw the Hockeyroos will try and put the controversial absence of star Anna Flanagan to one side and focus on their own Olympic preparations.

This includes the Hunter’sMariah Williams, who is racing the clock to be fit in time for Rio after recently having her fourth lot of knee surgery since 2014.

Australia start their Champions Trophy campaign against the USA in London next Saturday (June 18). They then face New Zealand, Argentina, The Netherlands and Great Britain before a potential finals berth on June 26.

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