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Oh brother! One plays for NZ, one for Australia, but no love lost between siblings

Olympics

New Zealand’s Leon Hayward may have won his personal duel within a battle against brother Jeremy – but it was the Aussie Kookaburra who’s enjoyed the last laugh in their “ridiculous” Olympic hockey face-off.

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The 31-year-old Leon, in goal for New Zealand, had the sinking feeling of his net bulging as Australia kept up their 100% winning record at the Games on Wednesday with a 4-2 triumph.

His only consolation was making three fine saves and stopping Jeremy, the Australian defender, scoring past him as he made a brilliant stop from his younger brother’s third-quarter penalty corner flick, gloving the high-speed strike on to the post.

The two Perth-raised brothers admitted it had been a weird, but enjoyable, feeling facing off on sport’s biggest stage.

Leon was once the Kookaburras’ goalie but after failing to hold down his place, ended up four years later being snapped up by the Black Sticks, for whom he was eligible because his mum, who’d played at State level in Australia, hails from Dunedin.

“Could you imagine it? It’s ridiculous isn’t it?” smiled Leon, pondering the trans-Tasman family confrontation.

“It’s a good feeling, a strange feeling, and I guess everyone’s really proud of what’s happened – but, unfortunately, I didn’t win today so I’m not the happiest guy.”

Not even after saving little brother’s goal-bound strike.

“I think he’s scored about four this year so far against me, so it’s good to get a save, finally,” Leon said ruefully, while Jeremy noted: “I tried to keep it secret when I was flicking but he somehow knew where I was going…”

For both, it was a unique occasion worth celebrating – with mum Ellie their toast.

Australia’s Tim Brand (29) scores on New Zealand goalkeeper Leon Hayward (20) during Wednesday night’s clash between the trans-Tasman rivalskyo, Japan. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

“Have to give a shout-out to mum there,” smiled 28-year-old Jeremy. “New Zealand-born, a dual citizen so Leon’s moved across the ditch and playing for the opposition.

“We grew up playing next to each other and I’d much rather be playing next to him and with him. We’ve played a few times previously but a bit bigger stage this time.”

So who were mum and dad supporting?

“I don’t know who’s the favourite child at the moment. They’ve got a win – they’ve also got a loss. They were hoping for a draw, I guess,” shrugged Jeremy. “They’ll be proud either way seeing both their sons.”

And the victor had praise for his elder sibling. “Growing up, Leon taught me toughness, that’s for sure. He beat me up a fair bit! He taught me how to be tough, and we love each other, and I thank him for that as well.

“We never threw punches, we were just wrestling. He was always that bit stronger than me and I always had a target to reach. Always looking up to him, the bigger brother.”

But it’s little brother in the Olympic driving seat with Australia having won all four matches while New Zealand, with one win and one draw from their four, still battling to make the knock-out stages.

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