Conversions add to goalkeepers’ significance

By Adam Clifford

The role of the goalkeeper has evolved drastically in the modern game, with the Sultana Bran Hockey One League’s unique field goal conversion rule and requirement for a mandatory winner of each match placing added emphasis on those between the posts.

In addition to all drawn matches heading to a penalty shootout, when a field goal or penalty stroke is scored, the same player has an automatic one-on-one shootout with the goalkeeper for the chance of an extra goal.

No longer just a pure role of shot stopping, these exciting rules mean that a goalkeeper must also command their defensive circle and be able to make multiple agile reflex saves.

HC Melbourne goalkeeper Rachael Lynch was the gold medal winning hero for the Hockeyroos at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, producing three brilliant saves in the penalty shootout, and she has her own attitude towards them.

“Goal conversions is a creative way to ensure more goal opportunities are created and as the goalkeeper, I like the challenge,” Lynch said.

“Looking ahead, I feel that hockey will embrace shootouts more and more as it’s an exciting, yet much safer, element to our game compared with penalty corners.”

“The Hockey One conversions rule does put pressure on field players to ensure they are all good at the shootouts, rather than just having your team of specialist takers for the end of the match.”

In dissecting the role key elements of a successful one-on-one shut out, Lynch zeroed in on four key areas: balance and agility, staying in the contest, taking your opportunity to take the ball when it comes and having a fierce desire to stop the ball going in the net.

“Shootouts at the end of the game as just about composure and confidence,” Lynch remarks.

“I always see it as a positive when we go to shootouts, as I love the pressure that comes with it. I attack them mentally and that helps me to attack them physically as well.”

And as for Lynch’s trickiest opponent… she quickly sided with a NSW Pride star that missed the majority of Season 1 through injury.

“Mariah Williams is an absolute jet when it comes to penalty shootouts. She has fantastic ball control and is a really strong physical presence.”

Similarly, Kookaburras and Canberra Chill goalkeeper Andrew Charter knows all too well about small margins involved, having starred in Australia’s Quarter-Final win against the Netherlands at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Goalkeeping has always been an integral part to a successful team, but the adoption of conversions has increased the importance of the role even further with the ability to keep your team in the game by denying them,” Charter said.

“While all goalkeepers have their own set of key principles when faced with a shootout, mine personally revolve around staying in the contest and being active. It’s important that the forward isn’t able to dictate to me, if possible.”

Charter nominated HC Melbourne forward Nathan Ephraums as the most dangerous opponent, citing his ability to manufacture space for himself in and around the goal mouth.

“It’s important to also draw on your personal knowledge of each forward, such as knowing their strengths and weaknesses.”

“In a shootout with five possible takers, I try to play around with what I do and keep some variety, so that I’m not too predictable to those taking a penalty later on.”

The Sultana Bran Hockey One League commences with a jaw-dropping opening double header between Hockey Club Melbourne and NSW Pride this Thursday night from 6:30pm. Watch it LIVE on Fox Sports and Kayo.