Hockey Australia recently announced their 2021 Hockeyroo and Kookaburra squads

SELECTED: Parkes' Mariah Williams has been picked in the 2021 Hockeyroos squad, in a huge Olympic year. Photo: Getty Images

SELECTED: Parkes' Mariah Williams has been picked in the 2021 Hockeyroos squad, in a huge Olympic year. Photo: Getty Images

Parkes hockey stars Kurt Lovett and Mariah Williams have been selected in the Kookaburras and Hockeyroos squads for 2021, a crucial year as players vie for Olympic selection amidst a less-than-ideal preparation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kookaburras squad, currently ranked number 2 in the world, made just one change - with Lovett looking like he will add to his three caps while he keeps one eye on Olympic selection.

The Hockeyroos selectors created a storm of controversy after dropping the mercurial Rachael Lynch, who has amassed 223 caps for Australia as goalkeeper, with whispers even suggesting some players were so upset they were preparing to strike.

Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin cited the changes as having to do with injecting fresh blood into the squad, though the hierarchy has continued to dodge assertions there is a poor culture within the setup.

"I empathise with the athletes who have missed out but the selection panel has chosen a squad that it believes gives the Hockeyroos the best chance of success not just in 2021 but over the next Olympic cycle," said Gaudoin.

"The selection criteria takes into account a range of aspects so we stand by and respect the decisions the selectors have made."

PICKED: Kurt Lovett made his Kookaburras debut in the FIH Pro League against Great Britain on February 2 earlier this year and has had two caps since. Photo: Steve Christo.

PICKED: Kurt Lovett made his Kookaburras debut in the FIH Pro League against Great Britain on February 2 earlier this year and has had two caps since. Photo: Steve Christo.

Critics are quick to point out the rudderless and chaotic nature of Gaudoin's leadership, which will be further highlighted by the losses of the retired Karri Mahon, Lynch and co-captain Georgina Morgan.

That doesn't take anything away from Williams, however, who has been one of Australia's best players over the past few years on her way to 15 goals from 83 appearances.

On a more positive note, Kookaburras coach Colin Batch said eyes were firmly on being primed for Tokyo in July.

"All of the players selected are excited about being in the pre-Olympic squad," said Batch.

"Further to Tokyo, the selection of this squad is also about starting to target the 2022 Commonwealth Games and 2024 Olympics in Paris."

The continued impact of COVID around the world means the timing of the Kookaburras' next international match remains uncertain, however they are scheduled to take on New Zealand in the FIH Pro League on April 24 and 25.

The Kookaburras played just eight international matches in 2020 and not one since early March.

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