AUSTRALIA continue their good relations with Malaysia at the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) in Johor Bahru next week, but the hosts can expect nothing friendly about their visit this time around.
The Burras kick-off their campaign against Japan at Taman Daya Stadium on Oct 31 with a squad set for the upcoming Junior World Cup in India just one month later.
Australia, who finished a dismal fifth in last year's SOJC, missed the Junior World Cup podium in 2013 and having never finished outside the top three in back-to-back editions, the pressure is on Ben Bishop's men.
“As always, it was a difficult task to select this group. Our broader junior program has developed very good depth as a result of the great work done around our network," said in a recent interview in Australia.
“The group we have selected will enjoy another great competition in Johor this year against some quality international teams.
“This year, the SOJC presents a further opportunity for us as our major competition focus in the lead up to the Junior World Cup. I look forward to seeing our Burras take another step up in their development in readiness for the Junior World Cup.”
Bishop will want to avoid repeating their 2015 outing, where Australia only manage to defeat Pakistan.
Australia lost to Argentina on the opening day before bouncing back with a 6-2 win over Pakistan, only to lose 3-2 to hosts Malaysia in the following match. Australia also drew 4-4 with Great Britain and lost 1-0 to India before disposing Pakistan 5-0 to avoid finishing with the wooden spoon.
Australia have a largely unchanged side from last year. Among the 20 players selected are Rio Olympian Blake Govers and fellow Kookaburra Tom Craig. Kiran Arunasalam from the national development squad is also included while the rest are from the national juniors.
With a talent pool so wide, the players are unlikely to take the SOJC lightly as places for the trip to Lucknow, India are up for grabs.