LAUNCESTON hockey player Nick Budgeon demonstrated his credentials as a penalty corner specialist with a hat-trick in Australia's 7-0 defeat of China yesterday.
Tasmanian Institute of Sport hockey coach Andrew McDonald told The Examiner last month that Budgeon's penalty corner talents could prove a valuable weapon in his armoury and so it proved with the first line of the Kookaburras' scoresheet reading ``Budgeon 3, 56, 64 (PC, PC, PC)''.
Field goals from Trent Mitton, Jamie Dwyer (his 201st international goal a day after his 35th birthday), Jake Whetton and Russell Ford completed the rout in what was Budgeon's best mate and fellow Tasmanian Eddie Ockenden's 200th international appearance.
The match was Australia's first at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, where it is reigning champion and chasing a historic eighth title.
The Hockey Australia report of the match read: ``Before the match all eyes were on Tasmanian Eddie Ockenden, who was celebrating his 200th appearance for Australia, but it was Ockenden's best mate Budgeon whose goals were critical to the margin of victory.''
Taking advantage of the enforced absence of injured Victorian Chris Ciriello, Budgeon's hat-trick takes the 26-year-old former Launceston City defender's tally to six goals from 15 matches.
Young Northern Territory star Jeremy Hayward made an impressive senior international debut while Victorian Glenn Simpson was also recognised on his 100th Kookaburras appearance.
Head coach Ric Charlesworth was satisfied if not delighted with the outcome.
``Overall we were OK but we weren't as fluent as we'd like to be,'' he said.
``We can be better than that.''
The tournament represents a significant stage of Australia's preparation for its world cup defence in The Hague in June.
Canada is next up for the Kookaburras tomorrow.