A Hockeyroos side featuring a mix of senior and junior women went down to China 4-1 in the opening match of a three-game series at Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday night.
Clinical penalty corners carried the visitors to victory, the first after just two minutes from Qiuxia Cui.
China also scored through penalty corners in the 26th and 43rd minutes through Mengyu Wang and Quianquian Bao, respectively.
Four minutes later Emily Smith, with help from Amelia Spence, broke the ice for the Hockeyroos, scoring from a field goal in the 47th minute after excellent build-up play from Mariah Williams.
The goal gave Australia hope at 3-1 but a quick counter-attacking field goal from Meiyu Liang ten minutes before the final siren completed China’s night.
Queenslanders Savannah Fitzpatrick and Renee Taylor and New South Wales player Kate Hanna made their senior international debuts in what was Australia’s first competitive match since winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, eight months ago .
Captain Madonna Blyth said it would take time for the new players to get comfortable.
“We’re lucky that we’ve got the depth coming through and that we can blood three new players in this tournament as well as a couple of girls that have only had a handful of games.
“To get back out there and to get back into the pace and speed of international hockey is great leading into our tournament coming up in New Zealand, so the next couple of games for us is really important in our development and we want to make sure that we get off to a better start on Saturday.”
Coach Adam Commens said the inexperience of the team was obvious.
“Not only did we have three debutants but we had a number of players playing in new positions.
“We started off pretty slowly and I thought our second half was a better performance. I think we saw that if you give China space they’re able to move the ball well and they were really efficient in their finishing tonight.
“I certainly think we need to get back to a more aggressive style of defending.
“Our trademark hockey is having a really smothering style of defence and tonight we didn’t see that at all.”
Commens said he was happy with the performances of the debutantes.
“I thought they showed glimpses of what we’re after with the Hockeyroos. Certainly you don’t expect them to be world’s best in their first performance but they showed some great composure at times and some good level of skill and they worked hard and that’s all you can ask.”
The second match is on Saturday afternoon, also at Sydney Olympic Park.