Hockey's popularity at the Commonwealth Games has been highlighted with the finals fully subscribed and more than half of all available tickets sold after the first ballot for the 2006 Games in Melbourne, Australia, next March. 

Both men’s and women’s hockey finals were fully subscribed, with spectators snatching the tickets to the session expected to feature the home team in the medal-deciding matches.

The Minister for the Commonwealth Games, Justin Madden, said he was delighted with the response across all sports in the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Ticket Ballot.

More than 675,000, or 54%, of the 1,248,862 tickets allocated to the public were sold through the Ticket Ballot, making it the most successful Ballot in Commonwealth Games history. 

In total 59 of the 241 sessions available were fully subscribed through the Ticket Ballot including all sessions of Track Cycling, Diving and Synchronised Swimming and finals of the Men's and Women's Hockey, Basketball and Netball. 

Hockey will participate at the Commonwealth Games for the third time in 2006. Australia has dominated the previous two competitions, claiming three of the four gold medals handed out so far.

Next year’s competitions should be the closest yet, with India, Pakistan, New Zealand and England all ranked in the top 10 on the men’s Sahara WorldHockey Rankings. South Africa and Malaysia (11th and 12th on the rankings list) add further strength to the field, with all expected to challenge Commonwealth and Olympic champions Australia. 

In the women’s competition, defending champions India will face stiff opposition from New Zealand, England and home team Australia. All teams are ranked higher than India on the world rankings, with Australia especially keen to atone for their shock bronze medal in Manchester. 

With less than a year to go until the Games, New Zealand women’s team looks the most settled, playing regular international hockey against tough opposition. Their team’s main challengers, Australia, England and South Africa, are embarking on programs under new coaches, but have significant time to develop in time for the competition in Melbourne.