HUNTER hockey players Mariah Williams and Matt Dawson are now taking different roads towards next year's Olympics after Australia's national squads wrapped up Games qualifiers against New Zealand in Queensland on the weekend.
Williams and the women's Hockeyroos team will face Russia in a must-win series in Perth next month, having missed an automatic 2020 spot based on goal difference, while Dawson and the men's Kookaburras side booked a ticket to Tokyo with success at the Oceania Cup.
The upcoming draw for the Hockeyroos was announced by the International Federation of Hockey (FIH) from Switzerland in the early hours of Tuesday morning (AEST).
Back-to-back matches with relatively unknown opponents Russia at the Curtain University venue on October 25 and 26 will determine whether or not three-time Olympic women's champions Australia contest the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Williams said it was "disappointing" for the Hockeyroos to find themselves in this situation, however, all efforts would be made to ensure they don't let another qualification opportunity slip by and it means being unavailable for a large portion of the inaugural Hockey One tournament due to start on September 29.
"It obviously changes a lot of things," former Hunter Sports High School student Williams told the Newcastle Herald.
"The end of this month is the start of the first Hockey One, but our coach wants us to stay here [Hockey Australia headquarters in Perth] and train together for the Olympic qualifiers.
"It's a shame to miss a few games in a new tournament, but this [making Tokyo 2020] now becomes more important."
Williams opened the scoring in Sunday's 1-all draw with New Zealand in Rockhampton, but following a 3-2 win and 3-1 loss earlier at the Oceania Cup this third result saw the visitors finish top of the overall standings based on a superior for-and-against record.
"It was pretty disappointing," she said.
"We're obviously ranked higher than New Zealand and would have been expected to go through but we didn't perform at our best.
"That first game really cost us, losing straight up and letting in too many goals."
Norths defender Dawson and the Kookaburras fared much better, beating the Kiwis 3-0 in Sunday's decider to guarantee Olympic progression.
The door had been left slightly ajar after a 2-all draw in the second Test followed a 4-0 win at the Oceania Cup opener in Rockhampton.
"It was obviously pleasing to get the job done in the end," Dawson said.
"We could have wrapped it up in game two, but we were able to bounce back."