Aussie star passes on knowledge

Australian hockey star Mark Knowles coaches Dunedin hockey players at the McMillan Centre...
Australian hockey star Mark Knowles coaches Dunedin hockey players at the McMillan Centre yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Some hockey royalty visited the south over the weekend.

Mark Knowles, four-time Commonwealth Games champion, Olympic champion, world champion, world player of the year, and former Australian national team captain, was in the city to hold some coaching clinics for more than 100 junior Dunedin players.

Knowles (34) said coaching was something he personally really enjoyed and the weekend was great.

"We’ve had a lot of fun and done some good development work and training drills," he said.

"Coaching is my passion and this is a project of mine, but my fulltime role is a manager with the Queensland Academy of Sport in personal development."

He comes from Rockhampton originally, but had been based in Perth for much of his career, before moving back to Brisbane near the end of his international career.

Knowles played 325 games for his country, retiring after winning the gold medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

"I’m not missing playing at all. Sure I miss being around the boys, but I’ve got three young kids, a wife and I love being around home. I went out in a great way. I did not go out injured. I did not go out on a loss. I did not go out not loving the game.

"I’d announced it eight weeks before the Commonwealth Games. Then we had a really tough battle in the semifinal against England and managed to get through that game. I woke up in the morning of the final and thought ‘here it is’. I was not nervous at all in the final. In some ways it really felt like a bit of a relief."

Knowles was the flag bearer for Australia at the Games, so there was a bit of pressure on him to perform and get a gold.

The centre back was part of a dominant era of hockey for Australia, with two World Cup wins, an Olympic gold and four Champions League trophies.

He credited high intensity in everything they did for such success.

"Our coach [Ric Charlesworth] used to say ‘if you are not getting injured in training, then you are not training hard enough’. So we trained harder than we played."

He had to move to Perth at a young age to be part of a centralised programme, and said that had been a huge sacrifice at the time. Within months of making the national side, he had won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Centralised programmes had their advantages, as players got to know the ins and outs of each others’ play, although it was tough off the field for families and careers.

Knowles said there was no easy way to gain success in the game, and like every sport it came down to training.

"You just have to have the basic skills. And you do that through practising. I never used to miss a trap. But that came down to training those basic skills. If you have 100 balls hit against you and everyone does 100 then you do 40 more. You can’t hit a tomahawk until you can trap a bouncing ball."

Hockey had become a game where players roamed all over the field, so players had to have plenty of variety in their game.

Knowles said the new FIH Pro League was interesting, as it tried to get players to play full time for their countries, but questioned whether enough revenue could be made to get players to leave European clubs and commit to national sides. 

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