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Kiwis the stumbling block for Hockeyroos
Guy Hand
06:23 AEST Sat Jul 28 2012

The Hockeyroos' pride, progress and prospects of a medal all face a serious dent if they can't beat New Zealand in the most critical of Olympic Games openers on Sunday.

The national pride implications go without saying, particularly against a New Zealand team which stunned Australia at last year's Champions Trophy and leapt past them in women's hockey's world rankings.

The Hockeyroos' rebuilding since has been promising, to the point the world No.7 quietly believe themselves a medal chance.

But those hopes will effectively vanish for the losers in a tough group also including world No.2 Argentina and No.3 Germany, and where only the top two teams qualify for the medal rounds.

Hockeyroos skipper Madonna Blyth concedes the importance of beating the Black Sticks, and isn't playing it down.

"With the Kiwis in any sport, you don't like losing to them - there's always a healthy rivalry," Blyth told AAP.

"We really want to make sure we're the team that comes out on top.

"We realise that we're in a tough pool, and that makes the first couple of games vital ... to set the platform we want to set."

The Hockeyroos and New Zealand have traded wins in several matches since their 2011 meeting in Amsterdam, showing how evenly matched they are.

Blyth believes the Hockeyroos are addressing their biggest weakness - the lack of consistency which plagues young, rebuilding teams in all sports.

"That's why winning an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle - you can't afford a day off," said Blyth, a 26-year-old veteran of more than 200 internationals.

"If you do, you run the risk of being out of contention.

"For us, that has been an issue in the past, but we've been working really hard to address that.

"If we play consistently and to our potential, there's no reason we can't win a medal."

New Zealand are coached by Australian hockey great Mark Hager, a Olympic bronze medallist during a glittering career for the Kookaburras.

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Opening Ceremony
Archery
Athletics
Badminton
Basketball
Beach Volleyball
Boxing
BMX
Cycling
Diving
Equestrian
Fencing
Football
Gymnastics
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Hockey
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Sailing
Shooting
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Synchro
Table Tennis
Taekwondo
Tennis
Triathlon
Volleyball
Water Polo
Weightlifting
Wrestling
Closing ceremony
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