The Kookaburras will face World Cup finalists Belgium and the Netherlands in Melbourne this weekend

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As seen in today’s Mercury newspaper, written by Adam Clifford

The Kookaburras will face World Cup finalists Belgium and the Netherlands in Melbourne this weekend with a backline featuring two Tasmanian stars.

Eddie Ockenden will again share the captaincy with Western Australian Aran Zalewski, while Josh Beltz returns to international action after a hand injury ended his 2018 campaign in a 20-player squad.

A star-studded opening weekend of the FIH Pro League in Melbourne will see the Kookaburras face the Dutch on Saturday and Belgium in Sunday, with the Hockeyroos facing both opponents at 5pm respectively.

All matches will be broadcast live on FoxSports and Beltz is hoping to repay the faith Kookaburras coach Colin Batch has shown in him after injury troubles.

“The coaches have shown faith in me and I’m really hoping to repay them for that,” Beltz said.

“We are playing quality European opposition, so it will be a good yard stick to see where I am at and I know Eddie always gets himself up for these big matches against the world’s best teams.”

“My defensive work has been a big focus for me recently, around my intent and footwork when tackling in particular.”

Beltz outlined that those players selected for the following Pro League match against Germany in Hobart on Sunday February 10 will link up for a week-long training camp at the Tasmanian Hockey Centre.

“The training week in Hobart will be great preparation for the match against Germany and although it’s unfortunate we won’t get the opportunity to play Pakistan after their withdrawal, it does allow us another intra-squad match and some more time to engage with our fans.”

FIH announced on Thursday morning that Pakistan would not compete in the inaugural FIH Pro League citing “inevitable circumstances”, but the Hockeyroos match against China at 5pm in Hobart on Saturday 9 February will proceed unaffected.

Hockey Australia responded quickly to announce a package of reduced ticketing for Tasmanian sports fans.

In addition, the Kookaburras will hold a coaching clinic and fan interaction, including signing opportunities, and an exhibition match from 3pm on Saturday February 9.

Tasmania’s third Kookaburras squad member, striker Jack Welch, is also believed to be in strong selection contention to play in the Hobart Pro League match against Germany.

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